END OF WATCH: May 30, 1938
Cleveland Police Department
Patrolman Raymond H. Griffin was killed off duty in an apparent robbery on Monday, May 30, 1938, at about 3:15 a.m. He completed his last tour of duty on Saturday, May 28, 1938.
Patrolman Griffin came from a large family. He was the youngest of six children. He had two brothers and three sisters. His oldest brother had been killed in an automobile accident, and two of his sisters had died after short illnesses. Griffin had been married for only thirteen months at the time of his death. Mrs. Griffin was visiting relatives in Ecorse, Michigan when her husband was killed. Griffin was born in Cleveland, attended St. Aloysius Parochial School, then East Technical High School where he participated in football, basketball, and track. He also was active in student organizations. After graduation, he attended Cleveland College for three years and had a reputation of being a good student.
Patrolman Griffin was appointed to the police force on August 10, 1934. At the time of his death, he was on assignment to the First Precinct police cruiser and worked from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. His fellow officers had high praise for Griffin. Many officers who worked under Griffin said he was the kind of a man who could execute any assignment. Other officers that knew Griffin said he would never back down under any circumstances. Many times Griffin was detailed to drive for Mayor Harold H. Burton and Safety Director, Eliot Ness. Friends said he was very ambitious and wanted to get ahead in the police department. Griffin had told his friends, “The more arrests I make or crimes I uncover, the better my chances will be to become a Sergeant.”
The last fifty-five minutes of Griffin’s life still remain a mystery. The last time Griffin was seen was when he left Saif’s Restaurant at 2810 Prospect Avenue at approximately 2:15 a.m., Monday morning. On Sunday, May 28, Griffin had attended Mass at St. John’s Cathedral along with more than one thousand of his fellow officers and firemen. He then attended breakfast at the Hotel Statler. After breakfast, he accompanied his fellow officers to Central Police Station where he took off his uniform and service revolver and placed them in his locker. He then went to visit his parents. When he left his parents, Griffin said he was going to spend the night with his close friend, Patrolman James Halloran of Troop A. Halloran says he never showed up and did not see Griffin at all that night. Around 5:15 p.m. Griffin met another friend, John Doreey, in the Holland Cafe located at 12513 Superior Avenue. Dorsey and Griffin talked about plans to play a game of golf. They had planned to play at Willowick Country Club. Dorsey was to call Griffin at 7:00 a.m. on Monday. Griffin left the cafe around 5:30 p.m. and visited several other friends. Griffin returned to the Holland Cafe but left there around midnight. He then appeared at the Saif Restaurant. According to Sam Saif, the proprietor of the restaurant, Griffin arrived shortly after midnight and stayed until it closed at 2:00 a.m. When Griffin left, he talked with a friend and then stated he was going home. He then got into his vehicle alone and headed east on Prospect Avenue. Mr. Saif had also stated that Griffin often ate at the restaurant while on duty, but this was the first time he had visited while off duty. This was the last place Griffin was seen alive. Approximately fifty-five minutes later, the Todds of 5718 Hawthorne Avenue and the Colley’s of 5802 reported shooting outside between their houses. Mrs. Todd told police that she had been in bed when she heard voices in the yard below her window. “Stick ’em up!”, one voice demanded. Another voice said, “Stick ’em up, hell.” After a brief pause a voice said, “Give me that blank, blank money!” Another voice said, “You go to hell.” Neither the Todds nor the Colleys could say for certain how many voices were involved. After the demands there were sounds of a scuffle, followed by the sound of a gun shot. A voice then said, “He won’t do that again.” There then was another volley of four shots followed by the sound of one person running. It was difficult to determine which way the runner was going. It was then Mrs. Todd looked out and saw a man lying on the ground. No one else was around. Griffin’s car was parked by the curb, both doors open, the ignition locked and the keys in his pocket. His hat was on the shelf behind the seat.
Police squads arrived from various precincts. Griffin was found lying partly on his right side with his face toward the ground, his right hand above his head and his left arm at his side. Police detected a faint pulse. Griffin was rushed by ambulance to Charity Hospital but was dead upon arrival. According to Coroner S. R. Gerber there were five bullets in Griffin’s body, all .32 caliber. The first shot struck Griffin in his abdomen, the second grazed his shoulder, a third went through the base of his neck at the back, traveling down into the chest, penetrating the heart, right lung and finally lodging in the liver, the fourth entered about four inches below the third, and finally, a fifth bullet entered above the left ear, through the brain and lodged in back of the right ear. The Coroner stated that the last three shots were apparently fired after Griffin had already fallen. Any of the shots could have caused death.
There are many theories as to what really happened. One is that Griffin’s own gun, a small .32 caliber pistol was used to kill him. The gun could not be found. Investigators found that Griffin’s billfold was missing. The only items found on Griffin were his badge, a signet ring, a wrist watch, handkerchief, cigarettes, and thirty-six cents.
About ninety minutes after the shooting, police received an anonymous tip that information about the killing could be found at a house of prostitution located nearby. Police went there and arrested ten women and four men. Others were arrested, twenty-three in all, and questioned about the Griffin murder. All said they had never heard of him. A partial fingerprint found at the scene of the murder was sent to Washington for identification. The print did not match any of those arrested.
Theories abound to fill the fifty-five minute gap. Griffin was known to want to get ahead, and some say he was cruising the streets, looking for crime. Testing this theory, police drove at a normal pace and reached the spot of Griffin’s death within ten minutes after leaving Saif’s Restaurant. Another theory was that revenge was a motive. On April 3, 1938, Adam Petaski, 27, of Chardon, had been killed by Griffin after Petaski committed a robbery. The circumstances that led to Petaski’s death were as follows: A radio report to Griffin and his partner, Patrolman George Loparich stated that the Congress Cafe had been robbed and that the robber had escaped in a taxicab. The taxi was headed down St. Clair Avenue in front of Public Music Hall. The taxi driver saw the police, pretended there was something wrong with his cab, stopped, and exited his vehicle. Griffin and Loparich recognized the license number, exited their patrol car, and approached the cab. When Griffin opened the left rear door of the cab, Petkaski drew a revolver from his pocket. Griffin beat Petkaski to the draw and shot Petkaski as he sat in the back seat of the cab. Petkaski was dead upon arrival at Charity Hospital. Griffin was commended by his superior for a good piece of police work. Another theory was the possibility of gang reprisals for work done by Griffin, but he was not involved in any investigations concerning gangsters. Police believed Griffin was murdered in a robbery attempt. No other leads could be found by police.
Several years after Griffin’s death a suspect was arrested and charged with Griffin’s murder. Wendell Black, a black male, 28, was taken to the Grand Jury but was “No Billed”. Immediately after the “No Billed” was returned, Black pled guilty to several robberies in the 55th and Hawthorne area and was sent to the Ohio Penitentiary. Final sentencing was done by Judge Arther Day on March 18, 1946.
Raymond Griffin’s name is inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C. panel 2, west wall, line 9.
By Recruit James J. Grabowski, Cleveland Police Academy