The Greater Cincinnati Police Museum
“Preserving the History of Law Enforcement in the Greater Cincinnati Area”
Patrolman David L. Cole P160
Served: 5 years
July 20, 1969 to July 17, 1974
Dave was born December 30, 1949 in Cincinnati, the first child of James E. and Ruth Cole. Jim Cole was a mechanic for Fuller Manufacturing.
On April 15, 1953, when Dave was 3½ years old, Jim joined the Cincinnati Police Division as a Police Recruit.
Dave attended Amelia High School where he co-captained the Wrestling Team and from which he graduated 1969. One month later, he joined the Cincinnati Police Division as a Police Cadet on July 20, 1969. While attending the University of Cincinnati, he served at Police Communications (Martin Drive) and District 6 (Erie Avenue). During August 1972, he graduated with an Associate Degree in Police Science.
On August 12, 1972 Dave married his high school sweetheart, Cheryl Haas, at St. Bernadette Church in Amelia. Dave’s younger brother, Kenneth Cole, served as his best man.
On October 29, 1972, Dave was promoted to Police Recruit. He completed recruit training and was promoted to Patrolman on February 25, 1973, issued Badge Number 160, and reassigned to District 6. Later in 1973, he joined the Ohio National Guard. On March 31, 1974, Patrolman Cole, as was the policy for new officers then, was rotated to District 7 (Beecher Street). By then he had served his community and country for almost exactly 5 years; almost 5 years as a City employee, almost 2 years as a husband, 1½ years as a Patrolman, and 1 year in the Ohio National Guard. He and his bride has just purchased a new home and he was considering gearing up to study for the next promotional examination for Police Sergeant.
Ordinarily an off day, on July 16, 1974 at 11 p.m. he was sitting in 3rd Relief roll call because he had changed his off days to attend weekend drill with the National Guard.
Roland A. Reaves was the opposite side of the proverbial coin. While Recruit Cole was at the Training Academy, Reaves already had 8 criminal convictions in Chicago at the age of 20½ and a history of beating his wife, Jeanette Reaves. On February 8, 1972, he stole a taxi cab, assaulted his wife one last time, locked her in the trunk of the taxi, and abandoned it and her it in a remote spot. On that day, temperatures ranged from 12º to -4º. Chicago Police found the taxi and her frozen body on February 10, 1972.
Reaves was arrested March 16, 1972 and charged with her Murder. A judge dismissed the case on May 8, 1972 because Illinois Attorney General Henry V. Hanrahan, per his Republican rival, failed to obtain a coroner’s report in time for the preliminary hearing. Chicago Police reinstated the charges on the same day on May 11 and a judge dismissed the charge again, allegedly for another prosecutorial error, and released the murderer. Chicago Police signed a fresh warrant.
Reaves fled the state, spent some time in Detroit, and since about July 1, 1974 had been visiting his sister, Connie Reaves at 2035 Auburn Avenue. Also, staying with Miss Reaves, was her boyfriend, Ricardo Augustus Woods.
Woods grew up in Stonewood, West Virginia. As an adult, he began working in construction and married. He worked in Stonewood, West Virginia, Florida, and Lima, Ohio. About the time Reaves was murdering his wife, Woods left his wife and moved to Cincinnati. About May 1974, he was laid off from another construction job. Woods had no criminal record until he met Reaves. By mid-July, Reaves convinced Woods to purchase a .22 caliber semiautomatic pistol with his unemployment check. On July 16, Reaves purchased .38 Special revolver for $55.00.
While Patrolman Cole was in roll call on July 16, Reaves and Woods were planning to rob the United Dairy Farmers store at 2373 Florence Avenue. Less than two hours later, on July 17, 1974 at 12:46 a.m., Reaves was on top of the store’s roof, poised to ambush the clerk, Robert Leigh Smith, and take the night’s receipts. Woods was the lookout.
Mrs. Fay Valle of 2413 Gilbert Avenue saw Reaves through her window and called the police with a report of a burglary at the store. Cincinnati Police Communications Center dispatched two patrol cars, including Patrolman Cole, and a Canine Unit.
Reaves and Woods heard sirens from Fire Department apparatus responding to Park Avenue on an unrelated run. For fear that they had been discovered, they headed down Florence Avenue. As Patrolman Terry Kramer arrived at the scene, he broadcast a description of two men walking down Florence Avenue. Not knowing if they were involved, he addressed the immediate concern at the store.
Patrolman Cole was rapidly responding to the store. He had heard on his radio that two cars were on scene, so when he saw two men running down Florence Avenue, he skidded to a stop, ordered the men to come to him, and got out of his car. Woods walked toward him and Reaves followed.
About 12:50 a.m., Reaves, concealed by Woods, pulled his .38 revolver. As they neared Patrolman Cole, Reaves, from behind Woods, and ambushed him, shooting at him three times. One shot hit the police car near Patrolman Cole and fragmented into his face. Another struck his left hand and radio microphone, destroying it, and fragmented into his face. The other went into his chest and through his diaphragm, pancreas, and stomach. Patrolman Cole fell to the ground with terribly painful and life-threatening, but probably survivable wounds. He fired four shots at his assailants as they ran further down Florence Avenue, but none took effect.
When Patrolman Cole stopped firing, Woods and Reaves saw him on the ground and Reaves convinced Woods, at gunpoint, to go back and shoot him again so that he could not “rat out” Reaves. With Reaves supervising, Woods shot Patrolman Cole again with two .22 copper-jacketed hollow point bullets. It is likely that the first shot went through Patrolman Cole’s left lip and shattered his mandible and that Patrolman Cole, in a defensive reaction, rolled over. The last shot went into his back, searing through both lungs, the pulmonary artery, and the systemic aorta. This shot collapsed his lungs and caused him be bleed out.
Reaves then yelled “a dirty, obscene word about how he’d kill all of the SOBs.”
Officers at the store heard the shots but could not see where they came from. Patrolman Richard Sizemore responded to the area and found Patrolman Cole barely alive and unable to talk. Officer Schulte rushed him to General Hospital where he was declared by Dr. R. Rooney dead on arrival at 1:15 a.m.
Patrolman Cole was survived by his wife, Cheryl (Haas) Cole; parents, Cincinnati Patrolman James E. and Ruth Cole; and siblings, United States Air Force Airman Kenneth Cole, Connie Cole, James E. Cole, Jr., and Stephen Cole. On July 19, 1974, 1000 people in 300 vehicles traveled from Cincinnati to E. C. Nurre Funeral Home in Amelia his layout. The next morning, a huge procession formed at the Cincinnati Police Division Headquarters at 310 Lincoln Park Drive and drove to Amelia to escort his remains to his final resting place in St. Peter’s Cemetery in New Richmond.
After the shooting, Woods and Reaves ran through a wooded area beneath the Kenton Street Bridge, up to Gilbert Avenue, and then through the yards to a home of their friends, Ernie and Charlie Wyche, at 959 Nassau Street. Reaves, his revolver still in hand, told them how he pushed Woods out of the way and shot the officer. He also told them that he had to kill the officer because the officer could identify him. They changed their clothes, unloaded their handguns, and left. Later, Reaves bragged to his sister about having killed a police officer.
Following the shooting, police had no immediate suspects. Dozens of officers and canine searched and canvassed the area for several blocks. The Fraternal Order of Police posted a $1000 reward and the Fraternal Order of Police Association a $2500 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects. The Cincinnati Enquirer also offered $2500 through their “Secret Witness Program”. A squad of Homicide detectives was formed and dedicated to the task of investigating the offense: Sergeant Paul “Skip” Morgan (currently, a Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Volunteer) and Detectives Bernard Kersker, Thomas Gardner, Hank Snodderly, and Richard Burgess.
By Thursday morning, July 18, 1974, Police thought they were looking for as many as four suspects involved in the United Dairy Farmers offense and Patrolman Cole’s murder. More than 300 tips had been received at special phone numbers set up for that purpose.
Their investigation led them to Reaves’s home on Auburn and, at 9:30 a.m., about 33¾ hours after the murder, detectives found and arrested Reaves and took him to the Criminal Investigation Section at 222 E. Central Parkway for interrogation. He admitted his participation, claimed self-defense, and implicated Ricardo Woods. They took him to Woods’s uncle’s home and from there determined that Woods had skipped town and gone to West Virginia.
Also on the morning of July 19, 1974, the Hamilton County Grand Jury indicted Woods and Reaves and investigators signed a federal warrant for Flight to Avoid Prosecution for Woods.
At 11:30 a.m., 35¾ hours after the murder, FBI, West Virginia State Police, and Harrison County Sheriff agents, officers, and deputies surrounded a home belonging to Woods’s mother, Dorothy Barnett, in Stonewood, West Virginia and found Woods, Connie Reaves, and Reaves’s revolver inside. Woods had been sleeping and offered no resistance. On Saturday, July 20, 1974, Cincinnati Detectives Hank Snodderly and Frank Sefton drove to the Marion County Jail in Fairmont, West Virginia and questioned Woods. He gave a self-serving admission to the offense, waived extradition, and returned to Cincinnati with the detectives and Connie Reaves.
On July 30, 1974 Presiding Judge Frank M. Gusweiler scheduled separate trials for Woods and Reaves to begin on October 15, 1974. The cases were prosecuted by the Hamilton County Prosecutor Simon L. Lies, Jr., and his Chief Assistant, Fred J. Cartolano. Judge Gusweiler appointed attorneys Thomas Stueve and Bernard J. Gilday, Jr. to defend Woods and Harry McIllwain and Jack Rubenstein to defend Reaves. The pair would be the first to be tried under the new charge of Aggravated Murder with a Police Officer specification requiring a sentencing of death and at least two of their attorneys were considered to be among the best in Cincinnati.
Woods waived a jury trial and on October 15, 1974 a three-judge panel of William R. Matthews, William S. Matthews, and Robert L. Black, Jr. tried the case. They convicted Woods on October 23, 1974 and sentenced him to die by electrocution on January 31, 1977. Because of a Supreme Court ruling during the late 1970s, his death penalty was commuted to life. Based on Ohio’s laws for “Life Imprisonment” he was brought before the Parole Board on September 2, 1994. No notice was given other than to the defendant and he was paroled to California having served less than 20 years after his conviction for putting the last two bullets, including the fatal one, into Patrolman Cole.
Judge Frank M. Gusweiler presided over Reaves’s trial on October 15, 1974. Reaves interrupted the trial on numerous occasions and was, for a while, ejected from his own trial. A jury was sequestered on October 23, 1974 and the next morning returned a verdict of guilty for Reaves. It was then the legal requirement for Judge Gusweiler to determine if there were any mitigating circumstances to prevent a sentence of death. Ever defiant, Reaves asserted, “I want to be sentenced now. I don’t want any mitigation. He was also sentenced to die on February 1, 1977, which was also commuted. Notices of his parole hearings have been made public and the Parole Board has continuously rejected him after thousands of citizens voiced their protests. His latest hearing was March 17, 2017 and after thousands of letters were sent to the parole board and dozens of violations assessed against him in prisons, his case was continued 10 years. His next hearing will be scheduled during 2027 when he is 75½ years old.
If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident or any incident involving the death of a law enforcement officer, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Director@Police-Museum.org.
A bronze plaque honoring Patrolman Cole, purchased through donations by sworn and civilian Police Division employees, was dedicated on May 12, 1975. Patrolmen Walter Barlag, Thomas Waller (later Vice President of the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society), and Stephen Hoerst coordinated the project and formerly presented it to the district commander, Captain James Stout. It was temporarily hung at District 7 (813 Beecher Street) and then transitioned to the new District 4 (4150 Reading Road) when District 7 was disestablished.
During 1995, Captain Christopher Robertson, Training Section Commander, and Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer, Assistant Planning Section Commander, discovered and researched a Cincinnati Municipal Code ordinance which authorized the retirement of badges of police officers who have died in the line of duty. Police Chief Michael C. Snowden subsequently retired Badge 160 and authorized the creation of a Cincinnati Police Memorial. Captain Robertson, Lieutenant Kramer, Sergeant Thomas Waller, and retired Police Officer James “Mike” Hillgrove planned, created, and established the memorial currently at the Cincinnati Police Training Academy.
In the years prior to the killing, the Fraternal Order of Police and Police administrations debated with the city’s Mayor Theodore Berry and City Council regarding a need for 250 more police officers. Per Chief Goodin, experts from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) determined that Cincinnati needed 200 more men for maximum police efficiency. The complement at the time was 1,132 officers and 218 civilians. After the murder, Councilman David Mann suggested hiring civilians to replace sworn officers for patrol duty. Three weeks following Patrolman Cole’s murder, City Manager E. Robert Turner, with the backing of Safety Director Henry Sandman and Police Chief Carl V. Goodin, submitted to City Council a plan to spend $400,000 for overtime to temporarily implement 38 two-man units. It was intended to be a temporary solution; permanency contingent upon a formal study into the matter. Instead, after 29 months and 3 more officers’ murders – Sergeant Charles Handorf in 1974 and Police Officer William Loftin and Sergeant Robert Lally in 1975 – City Council laid off dozens of police cadets and 124 police officers and instituted a Police hiring freeze. After the death of Delhi Police Officer John Bechtol (one of those laid off) and murders of 3 more officers – Police Officers Charles Burdsall in 1978 and Robert Seiffert and Dennis Bennington in 1979 – most of the laid-off officers were recalled, but no new officers were hired before 1980; lay-offs occurred again and again; and eventually the complement was reduced to less than 900.
© This narrative was revised January 25, 2017 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired) based on his research and that of Sergeant Thomas Waller and on personal recollections of the officer’s widow. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.