END OF WATCH: July 8, 1938
Cleveland Police Department
Appointed in 1920, Patrolman Robert Wehagen was an 18 year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department. Wehagen spent seven years his career in the detective bureau.
July 8, 1938, Matthew Bubich, a 48 year old psychopathic patient, escaped from the Elmwood Sanitarium. Bubich escaped by removing the screen from the second floor window and climbing down the fire escape. Dressed in pajamas and slippers, Police presume he walked to his butcher shop in the Flats where his wife and daughter lived. When his wife, Anna answered the door, he did not recognize her, saying “Oh no, my Anna’s got blond hair.”
It took Anna about ten minutes to convince Bubich she was his wife. Anna asked him in to the living room where Bubich kissed her, his fifteen year old daughter, and his four year old godson. He asked for clothes and Anna brought him underwear, a shirt and a pair of pants. He became angry when she could not find a belt for the pants. He went to the back of the butcher shop and emerged with a sixteen and one-half inch butcher knife. He warned his family to keep still or he would kill them, changed his mind and told them to leave the room, and locked the door behind them. The upstairs neighbors heard the commotion and called the police.
Sergeant Massey, Patrolman Messing and Patrolman Woerhaman responded to the butcher shop. They pled with Bubich to open the door but he refused. Officers called for back-up at which time Sergeant Schrank and Patrolmen Bonness and Wehagen arrived. Sergeants Massey and Schrank went to the back of the building to try a window. Wehagen and Bonness stationed themselves outside the kitchen door where Bubich barricaded himself.
Wehagen obtained the door key from Mrs. Bubich and unlocked the door. As Wehagen pushed it open and entered, Bubich thrust the knife into the officer’s abdomen. As Wehagen fell, he sprayed tear gas in Bubich’s face, blinding him. Bubich dropped the knife and staggered through the door and down four steps to where Patrolman Bonness was standing with a shotgun. Bonness fired twice at the madman striking him in the arm and stomach.
Bubich and Officer Wehagen were transported to the Lutheran Hospital. Bubich died moments after arrival and Officer Wehagen went to surgery. Doctors advised the knife severed his intestine in five places and there were several internal hemorrhages. At 1:30 pm, Officer Wehagen succumbed to his wounds.
Robert Wehagen’s name is inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C. panel 29, west wall, line 9.
By Recruit Daryl Johnson, Cleveland Police Academy