CLEVELAND– Cleveland police and the family of a mentally challenged man are hoping someone can help them track down a group of men who savagely beat him last week.
The family is now getting the support of Councilman Mike Polensek.
John Rager, 47, is being treated at MetroHealth Medical Center for a severe brain injury.
“I just want this person, whoever did this to come forward. I pray every day. I go to church every day. I just want him to get better. I miss him,” said Dee Dee Rager, the victim’s wife.
The couple has been together since high school, for 30 years.
Thursday evening, Rager was listed as being in fair condition.
Rager’s family said John has no short term memory and needed staples to close a large cut in the back of his head. The memory loss prevents him from remember anything from day to day or even from the attack. The family wonders if his mental challenges played a role in why he was targeted.
“It’s sad that there are people out there that would hurt people almost to the point of killing them, for nothing,” said Hoover.
Rager said her husband has no enemies. Despite being mentally challenged, he volunteered at his church, and for more than a decade and a half, he's worked at a Cleveland Heights bakery.
“We honestly think that because they didn’t take his wedding ring and he only had two dollars in his pocket, they were out to kill him; they were out to do as much bodily harm as they could,” said Rager’s sister, Jimi-Lee Hoover.
Cleveland police said some time after 2:00 a.m. last Wednesday, John was attacked by a group of men on East 152nd Street as he walked home from work. He usually rides his bicycle, but it had a flat tire.
Investigators said a witness reported seeing several men standing over John after the attack and saw one run away.
Detective Legg admitted that when police officers arrived on scene, they first believed he was intoxicated; unaware that John often collected cans for recycling, some of them beer cans.
“I’m sure there was some alcohol content left in them. So they smelled a strong odor of alcohol emanating from the scene and the victim was not able to accurately answer their questions. So they weren’t really aware of what had transpired at that point in time,” said Legg.
The family still has many questions and they are now getting support from Councilman Mike Polensek, who represents the Collinwood area where the couple lives.
Polensek said both Dee Dee and John are outstanding citizens. “Here’s a young man who would never hurt anyone, who is mentally disabled, goes around the neighborhood picks up cans volunteers at his local church.”
Councilman Polensek wants to know if better communication would have made a difference the night of the attack.
“Could there have been a quicker response? Could there have been protocols? Could there have been a search in the neighborhood for the men who did this? Possibly, we don’t know. But, I want to get to the bottom of that,” said Polensek.
Polensek met with Chief of Police Michael McGrath and 5th District Commander Wayne Drummond on Thursday. He said, they’ll get to the bottom of any breakdown in communication, but right now the focus is on finding John's attackers, before they strike again.
“To beat a mentally challenged individual, you have to ask yourself what kind of monster is that? What kind of individual does that?” asked Polensek.
A fund to help the family with expenses is set up in John Rager’s name at KeyBank and a Facebook page has also been started called “JohnNeedsJustice.”
*CLICK HERE for continuing coverage.