Bedford Heights (Ohio) Police Det. Sgt. William Prochazka. Photo: Blockparole.com.
On a Monday, shortly after noontime in Bedford Heights, Ohio, two municipal police detectives headed toward a Blonder's paint store. Detectives Sgt. William Prochazka and James Toth were investigating two robbery suspects and brought mug shots to show employees.
The two men were known; they had tried to rob Blonder's several weeks earlier. It was Nov. 10, 1975.
The detectives believed they would deliver the mug shots and return to other investigative tasks. What they didn't know was that they were walking into a robbery in progress.
Three armed men with pistols and a shotgun had ordered six employees and five customers into a back room. The hostages were hidden from view.
As Sgt. Prochazka walked toward the back of the store, Michael Manns shot him in the neck, killing him instantly. The three robbers ran out the back door, and escaped in a getaway car driven by a fourth suspect. Hearing the shot, Det. Toth ran into the store to find his partner down. Det. Sgt. Prochazka was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Armed with descriptions of the suspects, vehicle, and license plate, the southeastern suburbs and Cleveland Police Department, including the tactical unit where I was a sergeant, launched an intense, massive manhunt.
Around 3 p.m., two of my tactical patrolmen broadcast that they spotted the suspects' car at E. 131st and Southview. I arrived within seconds to see three suspects proned out on the street. Two handguns were found in the car. The triggerman, Michael Manns, was missing.
We raced to search Manns' house on nearby Angelus, missing him by minutes. Despite flooding the area with officers, Manns eluded capture. Months later, Manns was finally arrested in Detroit, while committing another crime.
All four suspects were tried and convicted of aggravated murder of a police officer, kidnap, and aggravated robbery. All received a death sentence.
In 1977, their death sentences were reduced to life in prison. In 2003, the getaway driver was released from prison. Corrections officials waited until after the release to notify Sgt. Prochazka's family.
Then in 2010, two of the remaining convicted cop killers were up for parole. This time, the Prochazka family launched a campaign to deny the parole. The resultant widespread publicity in northeast Ohio and among the national LE community helped the Prochazka family lobby successfully for to deny their parole.
The latest parole attempt is from the triggerman who murdered Sgt. William Prochazka in cold blood. Michael Manns is Ohio Department of Corrections inmate #A149337. For the second time in only a year, the Prochazka family will be at yet another hearing to deny parole to the cold-blooded murderer of their father and husband.
Sgt. William Prochazka was survived by a wife and four children, including then 9-year-old Robert, who came home from school the day of his father's murder to the sight of his entire street lined with cars. It wasn't until he got home that he learned the awful truth of what had happened.
Today, Robert Prochazka is proudly following in his father's footsteps as a detective with the Willowick (Ohio) Police Department in a Cleveland suburb. All of us, especially those in law enforcement, need to do the right thing and help the Prochazka family in their undying quest to see justice done.
We can help in the effort to deny parole to this cop killer by signing the online petition to deny parole for Michael Manns by visiting Blockparole.com and clicking on "Featured Case: Cop Killer Up for Parole: Detective Sergeant William Prochazka was brutally killed in the line of duty."
The online petition is quick and easy, and only takes a few seconds to complete and submit. By doing so, not only will we be helping the Prochazka family obtain the justice they deserve, but we'll also help make the world and law enforcement a better, safer place.
I've never met Det. Robert Prochazka, yet I somehow feel very close to him, and his family. Maybe it's because I participated in the initial manhunt, and assisted my tactical officers in the arrests of three of the suspects.
Maybe it's because we had come so close to catching Michael Manns only to have him elude capture and countless subsequent searches for months. We came so close.
None of us who worked that tragic day in November of 1975 will ever forget it. Nor will any northeast Ohio LEOs ever forget. I'm betting there are still many of us who somewhere in our police archive collections still have Michael Manns' mug shot. I know I do.
Det. Sgt. William Prochazka's name is inscribed in the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall on Panel 15, West, Line 1, in Washington, D.C.
Remember, what happens today is destined to become tomorrow's yesterday. Never forget. Never give up.