END OF WATCH: October 20, 1924
Shaker Heights Police Department
On Friday, October 17, 1924, Patrolman Michael Hahnel and Patrolman Frank Dietrich were painting stop signs at S. Moreland and Lee Road. A speeding automobile, lacking due caution, was halted by the two officers. The officers did not know the two men in the car had forced a man from his car at W. 105th near Madison, proceeded to a gas station at W. 68th where they had stolen sixty dollars from the attendant.
After placing the men under arrest, Officer Hahnel jumped into the back seat and Officer Dietrich hopped on the running board, and they started for the Shaker Heights Police Department. Both officers got a good look at the man who turned around and shot Hahnel in the stomach, the bullet stopping near his spine. The robbers gave no pity. They shot Hahnel in cold blood then threw him in a field to die.
Hahnel was taken to St. Alexis Hospital near death. Physicians stated the policeman was fighting for his life and no operation was planned until he recovered some strength. The bullet itself would cause no serious complications. When the bullet entered his body, a portion of his clothing entered also. This was removed, but the danger of peritonitis was still very grave.
On October 19 the holdup victim was shown photos of two men with police records Officer Hahnel looked up from his bed at St. Alexis and with one glance shattered the belief of Cleveland Police that they had in custody the driver of the automobile in which he had been shot. Hahnel did not recognize the shackled man who stood beside his bed. Patrolman Dietrich nor the gas station attendant, John Schmidt, were able to identify the suspect as either the man who did the shooting or the driver of the car. The suspect was then freed.
Patrolman Michael Hahnel died on October 21, 1924. On October 21 a $6,000 reward was offered by the Plain Dealer and Mayor W.J. VanAken of Shaker Heights for any information on the killers. Police everywhere, needing no such incentive, would do the utmost to capture the slayers of a brother officer.On October 22 two Cleveland detectives were added to the killers’ trail. Scores of people lined up at the station to give clues. Police had hundreds of statements, some from as far away as Burton, Ohio. Several leads were turned up by the detectives. They located the garage believed to have been rented by the suspects. They also found part of a linen towel in the room where the suspects had lived. The towel resembled that in which Hahnel’s and the suspect’s revolvers were found wrapped in the room. Ownership of the revolver could not be traced. According to Shaker Heights Police files, the suspects were later apprehended.
Officer Hahnel was not married. There were no known next of kin.
Michael J. Hahnel’s name is inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C. panel 15, east wall, line 18.
By Norman Drew, Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society