Born in January of 1898, William J. Grabeck became a supernumerary officer in 1919, a regular police officer in 1923, and was promoted to sergeant in 1937. As a sergeant, he was responsible for 23 patrolmen, 4 cruiser drivers, 1 "doorman," 1 patrol driver, and 1 desk assistant. He was to lead the platoon in the Armistice Day parade on Sunday, Nov. 11, 1951.
Prior to joining the police force, Grabeck achieved a distinguished service record in World War I, having received more citations than any other New Britain man to that time, including a Silver Star with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters. He went on to become a City electrical inspector in 1920.
On Nov. 5th 1951, Officer Theodore Wojtusik had just gassed up his police car and was driving Sgt. Grabeck home. Several packages for the sergeant's wife were in the car. At about 5:26 PM, Grabeck and Wojtusik heard a holdup in progress call at the A.Y.O. Packing Company located at 332 Washington St. and responded.
Employees were still at the packing plant, among them the wife of William Opitka, who picked her up each day at 5:30 PM. Opitka hid when he became aware of the robbery.
Sgt. Grabeck entered the building through the front entrance and found Frank Wojculewicz, who was armed with a revolver stolen from the Colt factory, in the act of robbing the office. Sgt. Grabeck placed his revolver in the robber's back and ordered, "Drop it, I've got you covered!"
William Opitka reappeared between Grabeck and Wojculewicz as the sergeant attempted to make the apprehension. Wojculewicz spun and fired point blank, striking Grabeck five times. Grabeck fired six times, wounding Wojculewicz. Patrolman Wojtusik responded from the rear of the building, fired twice at the suspect, who was crawling toward his weapon, and then overpowered him.
Both Sgt. Grabeck and Wojculewicz were brought to New Britain General Hospital where Grabeck expired after heart massage briefly resuscitated him. Wojculewicz survived, but his lower body was paralyzed.
Mayor John L. Sullivan praised Grabeck as "...a man of rare courage. He feared no one. Throughout his many years of service in our police department, Sergeant Grabeck always exemplified those sterling characteristics that made of him an outstanding policeman. The sympathy of the city goes to Mrs. Grabeck in her hour of sorrow."
Acting Chief Daniel Cosgrove added, "We worked together for many years and he was always an efficient and courageous policeman. We were in many cases and many tight spots together and he was never found wanting."
Sgt. Grabeck's murderer, Frank Wojculewicz, had a long criminal history. He was sent to reform school at age 10 as a truant. He graduated to more serious crimes, such as burglary, robbery, and attempted escape from prison, which he committed in various states.
Back in New Britain in 1939, he was convicted of rape and sentenced to 5-8 years. In November 1950, he and an accomplice, Russell Mangan, robbed the People's Savings Bank of $19,000.
On Dec. 12th 1951, he pleaded innocent during a hearing which took place on a veranda of New Britain General Hospital. After his trial, which began on Mar. 4th 1952, the jury deliberated for two hours and ten minutes and found him guilty, recommending no mercy.
Wojculewicz was granted ten reprieves, most of them by Governor Abraham Ribicoff, but was finally executed at the CT State Prison on Oct. 26th, 1959. The A.Y.O. shoot-out had now resulted in two deaths.
When NBPD Headquarters was located on Commercial Street, the parkade across from the station was named in honor of Sgt. Grabeck. When Commercial Street was eliminated, so was the parkade.
The police auditorium at the current NBPD HQ is dedicated to Sgt. Grabeck.