Vaccination Protester Kills Two Cops


This is a headline that unfortunately would not surprise many people today. However this case occurred on December 12, 1932 in the town of Berwyn, Illinois. It involved a follow up to a truancy complaint to the Berwyn Police Department.

Arthur Lavac was a resident of the town of Berwyn, a suburb of Chicago. The local school district had mandated that all students receive the smallpox vaccine. Lavac opposed his children getting the vaccine for religious reasons. The children missed school for a month and the court was notified. A truancy warrant was issued and given to the Berwyn Police to execute. Sergeant Frank Svec and Patrolman Edgar Chatterton were assigned to execute the warrant. They arrived at the home at 6:30 pm dressed in plainclothes and began knocking on the door. There was some dispute about what occurred next, but according to Arthur Levac, he asked who was there and heard one of the officers yell to open the door or they would break in. Levac began shooting through the door indiscriminately. Officer Chatterton shot back but soon both officers were down. Both received fatal gunshot wounds and died on the Levac’s porch.

Levac opened the door to find that the two men were police officers. He made an immediate confession to the shooting but denied knowing that the two men were cops. He also claimed to have not fired first. There were no witnesses to the actual shooting but numerous persons gathered and saw the aftermath. The two officers were dressed in heavy overcoats and apparently did not have their shields displayed. The Levac family were all arrested. Arthur was placed on trial and convicted of murder. In 1934 an appeals court overturned the conviction, due in part to extensive prejudicial testimony about his vaccine stance that did not relate to the actual murder he was convicted of. The court also stated that murder was an overcharge and that Levac displayed no malice in his actions. The court found that a manslaughter was the appropriate charge. He received a new trial but much to the horror of the Berwyn Police and citizens no one was notified about the new trial. When no witnesses showed up in court the murder charge was dismissed and he was released.

Christopher Flanagan


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