Served: 23½ years
October 24, 1894 to March 3, 1918
On February 28, 1918, 7th District Patrolman Hanakas, of 1708 Hanfield, responded to a report of family trouble at 1227 Whitlow Street. Twenty-five year old Samuel “Vanny” Pitts, of that address, hid behind the door as the officer entered and he attacked Patrolman Hanakas from behind. Pitts took the officer’s sidearm and the two struggled over it. During the struggle the revolver discharged five times. One round entering Patrolman Hanakas’s jaw and exiting through his neck. Pitts then began pistol whipping Patrolman Hanakas about the head and Patrolman Hanakas was able to strike Pitts on the head with his nightstick causing a deep laceration. Pitts escaped through a kitchen window and Patrolman Hanakas was taken to Cincinnati General Hospital with what were considered to be non-life-threatening injuries.
Patrolman Hanakas’s brain was more damaged from the beating than originally thought. It swelled and, four days later on March 3, 1918, he died.
Patrolman Hanakas left a wife, Katherine L. Hanakas; two daughters, Anna and Margaret; and four sons, Harry, George, Jack, and James – one of whom was serving in the United State Navy at the time of the slaying. Funeral services were held at St. Boniface Church and he was buried on March 6, 1918, in St. Mary’s Cemetery, St. Bernard.
Pitts was finally found on April 2, 1918 working on a cotton plantation in Waverly Hall, George. Town Marshal J. R. Langford arrested and interrogated him. Pitts confessed to the killing, claiming self-defense. Cincinnati Detective Samuel Daulton took a train to Georgia, brought Pitts back to Cincinnati, and charged him with Murder.
On June 29, 1918, Pitts’s Murder case was ignored by the Grand Jury because “the [bullet] wound was not deemed sufficient to have caused death.”
Patrolman Hanakas was a first generation American. His grandson, Robert Hennekes, became a Cincinnati Police Officer and, late in his career, he too was shot in the line of duty. While jogging off duty, and unarmed, he interceded in a bank holdup and was shot in the chest and nearly died. He later retired and, among other activities, traveled to Iraq early in the 21st Century to train Iraqi police officers.
Patrolman Hanakas was born “Henry Hennekes” and his ancestors and descendants were named “Hennekes.” Patrolman Hanakas changed his name after joining the Police Department, about 1900, and after his death, his decendants changed their names back to Hennekes. He decendants are not certain of the reason he changed his name..
If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Director@police-museum.org.
This narrative was researched and revised February 24, 2013 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society Presient. All rights are reserved to him and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.