END OF WATCH: June 20, 1973
Cleveland Police Department
Fellow officers described Fred Vacha as a somewhat quiet and easy-going guy. In 1970, Fred Vacha was appointed to the Cleveland Police Department and initially assigned to the Fourth District. A lengthy lay off in 1971 interrupted Officer Vacha’s police career however, after his recall, Fred was again assigned to the Fourth District.
In April of 1973, the Cleveland Police Department obtained federal funding to create the Impact Task Force. The Task Force’s purpose was to concentrate on violent crimes in designated neighborhoods. Being an aggressive officer, Fred volunteered and was accepted to the new Task Force. As a member, Officer Fred Vacha was assigned to work with veteran officer Lenny Russell where the two soon became the best of friends and socialized both on, and off duty.
On June 20, 1973, Patrolman Vacha requested a schedule change and worked his normal day off to team up with Officer John Saccany to work the 7:00 pm to 3:00 am shift. While the officers patrolled the East 89th Street and Buckeye Avenue area, they observed a male acting suspiciously. Saccany pulled the police car to the curb and Officer Vacha called out to the male. The male immediately opened fire on the officers striking Officer Vacha above the eye, immediately killing him. Officer Saccany was shot in the leg as he returned the fire.
The suspect escaped on foot as back up officers arrived and flooded the area. After several hours searching, Sergeant Don Sobecki and other officers located the suspect behind a nearby building hiding in some brush. The suspect, Floyd Graham still had the murder weapon, a jammed 9mm pistol on him. Graham was convicted and sentenced to serve two life sentences.
Frederick Vacha’s name is inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C. panel 28, west wall, line 16.
By: Capt. Mike Dugan, Cleveland Police Dept.