Served: 11¼ years
January 13, 1905 to April 25, 1916
On April 25, 1916, shortly before noon, 20-year-old William Groendike, of 7130 Rosewood Avenue, was in Louis Katz’ pawnshop at 518 Central Avenue at Longworth Street (now the Cincinnati Fire Department Memorial). Groendike had already purchased and taken possession of an unloaded .45 caliber revolver and was acting as if he was negotiating for a violin, but his intentions were to rob Katz. Cincinnati Detectives Albert Wegener and William Sweeney happened to walk in, saw Katz was busy, and told him that they would be back in five minutes.
April 25 was also a voting day for the primary. On Longworth Street, just east of Central, a temporary voting booth was set up and 43-year-old Patrolman Robins, of 722 W. 9th Street, was detailed to protect it.
Groendike, knowing the detectives were coming back, felt compelled to act quickly. When Katz turned away from him, Groendike reached out and struck Katz on the side of the head with the revolver in an effort to knock him out. Katz was stunned, but conscious, and came out from behind the counter and grappled with Groendike. Groendike pulled from his pocket a loaded .25 caliber pistol and shot at Katz, hitting him in the wrist, and ran from the store with Katz in pursuit yelling, “Stop! Thief!”
Groendike nearly ran into Patrolman Robins. There was a short struggle and Patrolman Robins quickly took control, but on the way back to the pawnshop, Groendike reached into his trouser pocket, grabbed his pistol, placed it directly to Patrolman Robins’s side, and pulled the trigger. Patrolman Robins reeled and fell into the arms of Jack Rubenstein who had tried to assist in the pursuit of Groendike. Groendike took flight once more.
Detectives Wegener and Sweeney were also running to the scene and had just rounded the corner when Groendike shot Patrolman Robins. Groendike, running east on Longworth, saw them and fired a shot at them. Detective Wegener, who already had is revolver at the ready, returned fire. Two of his three shots took effect; one passing through Groendike’s torso and the other lodging in his spine paralyzing him below the waist.
The officers commandeered a passing Sullivan Ambulance which took Patrolman Robins to General Hospital. He lost consciousness on the way and died soon after arrival. A patrol wagon responded and took Groendike and Katz to General Hospital. Surgeons gave Groendike a 1 in 1000 chance to survive. He died two days later on April 27. Katz survived.
Patrolman Robins left a wife, May E. Robins, and a 5-year-old son, Johnny Robins. Funeral services were held at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral. Company A of the Police Department escorted him to his burial on April 28, 1916 in St. Joseph (New) Cemetery. Pallbearers included Detectives Sweeney and Hanrahan.
The next year, November 12, 1917, Detective Wegener would also die in the line of duty at another pawnshop on Central Avenue near Longworth.
If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or the incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Director@police-museum.org.
This narrative was revised on April 30, 2013, by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President. All rights are reserved to him and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.