CHICAGO (AP) — Tom Buchanan never really said what happened back in the 1940s when he was shot — but whatever it was, it finally killed him.
The weekend death of the 87-year-old retired steel worker was ruled a homicide, Cook County Medical Examiner's office spokesman Frank Shuftan said Thursday, after an autopsy revealed that the "gunshot ultimately caused the complications to his abdomen that ultimately killed him."
Shuftan said Buchanan's family members didn't have any details about the shooting. "We don't know anything about it," he said.
Buchanan's 82-year-old cousin, Mattie Matthews, said he never served in the military, so he could not have been shot in World War II. She said Buchanan, a quiet man who never married or had children, died without telling her what happened — even though she was probably the closest relative and friend that he had. All she knew about the shooting came from a conversation she overheard among grown-ups when she was a child.
"I was about 10 or 12 years old when I heard my aunt and my mother talking about how he had gotten shot, but I never heard anything else and he (Buchanan) never talked about it to me," she said of the shooting that must have happened not long after Buchanan and his mother moved from Mississippi to Chicago.
Matthews said she recalled that conversation last week when Buchanan started talking about a pain in his gut. She said her cousin was the kind of man who didn't want anybody to make a fuss, and initially wouldn't even consider leaving the independent living facility on the city's South Side to see a doctor.
"But when I went Saturday he was holding his stomach and I told him I was taking him to the hospital because he was getting worse," she said.
At 11:18 a.m. the next day, Buchanan was pronounced dead at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, according to the medical examiner's office.
His death has prompted an investigation by the Chicago Police Department, where spokesman Martin Maloney said detectives were talking to family members to determine, among other things, when the shooting occurred and if it even happened in the city. Maloney added that it was not clear if any records of an investigation still exist.
Meanwhile, Matthews said she is saddened and confused by the death of her cousin who always seemed so healthy.
"Two weeks ago I was talking and I told him I wish I could get around like him," she said. "How could a gunshot wound he got 70 years ago ... have contributed to his death?"