Last year, there were 617 homicides in Chicago, more than in any other U.S. city. Killing your neighbor is an old tradition here, going back to 1812, before the city was even incorporated. The perpetrator of Chicago’s first (documented) homicide was not punished, though; in fact, he has a street named after him.

The killer was John Kinzie, a prominent fur trader whose surname is familiar to anyone who has ever walked downtown. His victim: Jean La Lime, who owned Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable’s former home and served as an interpreter at Fort Dearborn. In one telling, La Lime took the side of a man who accused Kinzie of paying a $400 bribe to be appointed the sutler, or supplier of goods, to the fort. On June 17, 1812, Kinzie paddled across the river to the fort and stabbed La Lime. Kinzie claimed La Lime had shot at him during an altercation that led to the killing.

Kinzie fled and was eventually arrested by the British for supplying gunpowder to Tecumseh. He escaped and in 1816 returned to Chicago, where he lived his final 12 years as a respectable citizen, even serving as a justice of the peace. As for La Lime, he was buried near Kinzie’s property, but bones believed to be his were dug up in 1891 and displayed at the Chicago Historical Society because of his dire distinction.

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