Legendary Chicago mob-buster Don Herion dead at age 90

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Outfit hated Don Herion. And that was how he liked it.

Herion was a lawman at heart and a cop through and through, to the very end.

He died Thursday in Chicago at the age of 90. Even in his final weeks of life, after suffering the ill-effects of a stroke, Herion phoned a Chicago television reporter to talk about the latest mob news, and who was running the Chicago Outfit these days.

Crime-fighting seemed to be in his blood.

Born Donald H. Herion in 1929, he "grew up in a neighborhood where there was a bookmaker on every corner, sometimes two or three," stated his bio. It was that upbringing that pushed Herion to become a Chicago police officer following his U.S. Army stint during the Korean War.

After the required patrol training, Herion fell easily into the kind of police work that would become his life's passion: vice.

"He quickly learned that chasing bookmakers and busting up wire-rooms was a fight against organized crime," stated his bio. "Illegal gambling was organized crime's biggest money maker, the Golden Calf that financed most of its other illicit activities ranging from stock and bankruptcy swindles to the narcotics trade."

According to his own figures, Herion took down more than 4,000 illegal gambling operations during four decades with CPD and later with the Cook County Sheriff's Department. The reality was, it may have been an underestimate. Many of his biggest raids received wide news media attention in Chicago and Herion was a go-to source for media mobologists, most notably ABC7, well after his retirement from law enforcement in 2000.

In addition to his police work, Herion was a consultant and occasional actor on police movies and TV shows shot in Chicago. He also wrote several books on Chicago organized crime and was thinking about writing a new one, when his health turned.

Among the books Herion wrote was the aptly titled: "Pay, Quit or Die" which was heralded as "a cop's 40-year fight against the Chicago mob, both on duty and off duty as a vigilante, whatever it took."

On an undercover recording of two Chicago mobsters in 1989, the hoodlums discussed how they could get Herion out of CPD's organized crime division. They were unsuccessful and he continued targeting mob rackets.

So on the news of his death this week, there is one group of people that may be celebrating Don Herion's passing: the Outfit. And he wouldn't want it any other way.
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