Police Officer Charles D. Burdsall | Cincinnati Police Division

 

Police Officer Charles Burdsall

Badge:  P87
Age:     29
Served: 5½ years
October 29, 1972 to July 15, 1978

 

THE OFFICER

Chuck was born November 8, 1948 to Charles A. (a Powell Valve methods engineer) and Martha Burdsall.  He attended Oak Hills High School, graduating during 1967.  Chuck worked as a Gulf Oil service station attendant on Ebenezer Road, then on a roller bearing assembly line until October 1967.

On October 23, 1967, four months out of high school, Chuck enlisted in the United States Army and served two tours in Vietnam, where he was also wounded.  Sergeant Burdsall was honorably discharged on October 23, 1970 with a Purple Heart and an Air Medal for distinguishing himself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.

After his discharge, Chuck attended the University of Cincinnati and worked as a service station manager and mechanic.

On October 29, 1972 he joined the Cincinnati Police Division as a Police Recruit.  His was the first recruit class started in the new police academy established in the north wing of the old Courter Technical High School building.  The recruits were seated in alphabetical order and Recruits Dennis Bennington, Burdsall, and David Cole, seated together, would eventually start calling themselves “The Three Musketeers.”  Within 6½ years, all three would be shot and killed.

On February 25, 1973, Chuck was promoted to Patrolman and assigned to District 3 (3201 Warsaw Avenue).  Little more than a year later, on March 31, 1974, he was rotated to District 5 (1012 Ludlow Avenue).  Within his first 6 years, Patrolman Burdsall had already received eight letters of appreciation and/or commendation.  He and his wife, three children, and parents were living next door to each other on Rybolt Road.

 

WAYNE REED

Little is known about Reed, a 25-year-old Cleveland native, before he was first arrested in Cincinnati on May 14, 1977 for Grand Theft.  The People of Ohio, through their representatives, have established this as a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.  Five days later, three people, the prosecutor, defense counsel, and judge, agreed that Reed would plea to a misdemeanor.  The judge issued a suspended sentence of 30 days, ordered him to complete 40 hours of “alternative service,” and put him on probation for one year.  If he managed to not get caught stealing again in one year, he would serve no jail time.

He was arrested eight months later for Theft on January 28, 1978.  The People of Ohio determined that a second theft, regardless of the value of the theft, was a felony punishable by up to five years.  He was charged with a misdemeanor and a judge sentenced him to three days in jail.  On March 16, 1978 his probation officer filed a Probation Violation warrant and he began serving his 30-day suspended sentence on March 30, 1978.  He was out of jail by May 1978 and living at 910 Clinton Springs Avenue in Avondale.

While completing his “alternative service”, Reed met Daryl Broyles in an automotive class at the Stowe Adult Center.  After Reed’s release from jail, he would sometimes take Broyles to pick up his unemployment check.  During one such trip in June 1978, Reed discussed his plans to upgrade his criminal career to armed robbery.  During the discussion, he advised Broyles that if a police officer happened in during a robbery, he’d “blow him away.”

 

RUSSELL WILLIAM BELL

We have no access to his juvenile records, but at 19, Bell was arrested as an adult in 1972 for a Burglary on Dorchester Avenue and indicted on March 23rd.  The People of Ohio determined Burglary to be a felony punishable by up to 15 years.  We do not know what happened, but he was not in jail when in October 1973, he was indicted in Campbell County for Armed Assault with Intent to Rob.  The People of Kentucky consider this another 15-year crime.  We do not know where he was between 1974 and 1977, but we assume prison.

At 25, he was arrested on March 16, 1978 in Ohio for Carrying Concealed Firearm; another felony punishable by up 10 years in prison.  Days later, a prosecutor, defense counsel, and judge agreed that Bell would plea to a misdemeanor and the judge sentenced him to 180 days and then suspended 150 of the days.  Bell entered the Cincinnati Corrections Institute to serve his 30-day sentence, one day before Wayne Reed started serving his.  He was out by May 1978 and living at 2460 Victory Parkway.

Bell also had graduated to armed robbery.  Daryl Broyles turned down an invitation to join them.  Both men should have been in prison, but instead, on July 14, 1978, they were staking out a King Kwik convenience store at Dixmyth and McMicken.

 

INCIDENT

On June 14, 1978, at 11 p.m., Patrolman Burdsall began working 3rd Relief and was assigned to Car 508.  David Mellon (19), a son of Cincinnati District 5 Police Officer Bart Mellon, was considering a law enforcement career and was on that night participating in the Cincinnati Police Civilian Observer Program and was assigned to Patrolman Burdsall.

Less than an hour after roll call, off-duty Police Officer David Hamler was inside the King Kwik convenience market at McMicken and Dixmyth Avenues and saw Wayne Reed and Russell Bell obviously casing the store for a robbery.  The officer communicated this to Police Communications along with the description of the vehicle – a 1966 Chevrolet two door with a loud muffler and a rust spot on the driver’s side.  A call was broadcast to all cars, telling of a possible armed robbery attempt at the carry-out.

Officer Burdsall and Mr. Mellon were at Knowlton’s Corner.  They were not dispatched to the run, but they were close enough to respond.  When they arrived, the suspects drove out a back exit.  They followed it and at 12:10 a.m. on the 15th, Officer Burdsall activated his red light and pulled the car over at 2998 West McMicken Avenue.

Officer Burdsall told the occupants to get out of the car.  Witnesses said both got out and put their hands on top of the car.  Mr. Mellon stood by the passenger side of the cruiser.

As Officer Burdsall approached the car, Wayne Reed suddenly turned from the driver’s door, squatted into a crouched position, raised a .38 caliber revolver toward Officer Burdsall, and shot him in the mouth.   Officer Burdsall screamed and collapsed to the ground.  Bell, broke and ran down Hopple Street.  Reed quickly went up to Officer Burdsall and shot him twice more in the back.  He then pivoted toward Mr. Mellon who dove onto the sidewalk.  He shot twice more striking Mr. Mellon in the back as he dove.  Reed and Bell then ran back to their car.

Mr. Mellon had been taught to shoot a pistol by his father.  Later, he recounted, “I knew I was shot but not too badly.  I thought if I picked up his [Burdsall’s] gun, I might have a chance to stop them.”  Though shot in the back, he crawled around the front of the cruiser to where Officer Burdsall lay bleeding.  He grabbed the officer’s gun and, while kneeling on one knee, shot six times at the escaping suspects.  “They just starting to pull away when I started firing.  I heard the reports of my bullets hitting the car.”

When the revolver was empty, Mr. Mellon used Officer Burdsall’s radio to call for help.  Officer Burdsall said, “Five-oh-eight.  Five-oh-eight.”  They were his last words.

Officer Michael Phillips was the first officer on the scene within seconds.  Police took Officer Burdsall and Mr. Mellon to General Hospital.  Officer Burdsall died on the operating table at 4:30 a.m.  Mr. Mellon’s wound was treated, and he was released to his father who took him to the Criminal Investigation Section to assist with the investigation.

 

FUNERAL

Officer Burdsall was survived by his grandmother, Mathilda Reinersman; parents; wife, Karen (Chinn) Burdsall; children, Melissa Burdsall (7), Eric Burdsall (5), and Christopher Burdsall (3); and siblings, Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Donald Burdsall, Gene Burdsall, Greg Burdsall, and Mrs. Beverly Kreeb.

A visitation was held on Tuesday, July 18, 1978 at Niedhard-Minges Funeral Home at 3155 Harrison Avenue.  FOP services were held at 7 p.m.  Mrs. Burdsall requested a Cincinnati-officers-only funeral.  On Wednesday, July 19th, about 300 officers filled the Church of God at 3220 Central Parkway the funeral service officiated by Rev. Sim Wilson.  Officer Burdsall was buried in St. Joseph (New) Cemetery.

 

INVESTIGATION

On the night of July 15th, a Hamilton County Deputy Sheriff pulled over a 1966 green Chevrolet and arrested the driver on Wooster Road for suspicion.  Cincinnati Homicide detectives questioned him the following day but did not consider him a strong suspect.

On the 17th, Homicide Sergeant Thomas Oberschmidt and a detective traveled to Cleveland to question a man admitted to a hospital there during the morning with gunshot wounds.  The man had lied to Cleveland Police about his name and address.  It was eventually determined that he was from Michigan and his wounds occurred there.

On the 18th, the 1966 green Chevrolet was found.  Jerry Ayers (23) was the building superintendent of the Williams Branch of the YMCA for 7 years.  When he arrived at work he found a 1966 Chevrolet in the parking lot.  Mr. Ayers was another participant in its Civilian Observer program.  He reported finding a vehicle matching the description – “with bullet holes in it.”  There were six bullet holes in the car including two in the driver’s door.

The owner of the car was Barbara Brown, Wayne Reed’s girlfriend.  She had reported it stolen after Officer Burdsall’s murder, but during intense questioning, the investigation narrowed very quickly to William Russell Bell and Wayne Reed.  Bell felt the heat right away and called police with his location on Tuesday night, July 18, 1978 and he was arrested.

On Wednesday, July 19, 1978, Russell W. Bell was charged with Aggravated Murder.  Homicide Lieutenant Dan Cash said that he would be arraigned on Thursday, July 20, 1978, in the Hamilton County Municipal Court.  He was defended there by Leslie Isiah Gaines.  Judge John Ranz set his bond at $750,000.

David Mellon identified Reed from six random mugshots.  Cincinnati Police seized two of Reed’s suitcases from the basement of Bell’s apartment and it contained the murder weapon.  By July 20th, a warrant had also been issued for Reed.  The Hamilton County Grand Jury indicted both men for Aggravated Murder on July 21, 1978.  Also, on the 21st, the FBI joined the search asserting that they had reason to believe that Wayne had left the state of Ohio.

Cincinnati Homicide Squad was fairly certain that Reed had traveled to Cleveland.  Homicide Sergeant Thomas Oberschmidt traveled with one or more detectives to Cleveland several times and worked with Cleveland Homicide and East Cleveland Police Department.  Even while the Cincinnati Homicide personnel were in Cincinnati, the Cleveland and East Cleveland personnel “worked relentlessly” to find and capture Reed.

Reed had actually traveled to Cleveland on July 20, 1978.  Police had been warned that Reed had asserted that he would never be taken alive.  Police had also learned that a Cincinnati man was expected to wire Reed $60.  On July 22nd Cincinnati Police wired the money and Cleveland Police staked out the Western Union office.  Reed’s friend arrived to pick up the money and police followed him back to an apartment in East Cleveland.  They surrounded the building, rushed in, and found Reed cowering in crawl space on the 3rd floor.

Cincinnati Homicide Sergeant Thomas Oberschmidt and Police Officer William Lewis and Terrence Wheeler were sent to pick him up.  Reed, after his arrest, told investigators that he would have shot any officer who got in his way.

 

JUSTICE

Judge Peter Outcalt was set to preside over the Bell trial and kept his bond at $750,000 and set his trial for October 4, 1978.  Fred Cartolano would prosecute it.

Judge Robert Kraft refused bail for Reed and set his trial for October 12, 1978.  J. Scott Croswell defended Reed and Hamilton County Prosecutor Simon Leis prosecuted.  It was his first trial since successfully prosecuting Ricardo Woods and Roland Reaves for the ambush murder of Patrolman David Cole.

Bell’s trial started on October 16, 1978 before a three-judge panel including Judges Thomas Crush, Thomas Nurre, and Robert Gorman at 7 o’clock at night and after unprecedented motions on the part of defense counsel, attorneys Gaines and William Cunningham.  Reed’s trial also began on October 16, 1978.

Finally, after two weeks of witnesses and legal shenanigans, the trial of Russell William Bell went to the three-judge panel for a verdict on October 30, 1978.  Judge Crush advised the courtroom that when a decision was rendered, it would be sealed until after Reed’s trial.  That trial was winding down as well with the defense case in its latter stages.

At 11:30 a.m. on November 1, 1978, the Reed jury, having deliberated for only 8 hours, returned a guilty verdict on all counts; Aggravated Murder While Escaping Arrest, Aggravated Murder After Attempting to Commit Aggravated Robbery, Aggravated Murder with Prior Calculation; and Attempted Murder of David Mellon.  The three-judge panel announced that they, too, had come to the same verdict on Bell, but also found him guilty of Escape.

Officer Burdsall’s father, in shock since he received the news of his son’s death and despondent throughout the trials and associated proceedings, suffered a massive and fatal brain hemorrhage on November 18, 1978; 4 months after his son’s murder.

On January 17, 1979, Judge Robert Kraft announced that Reed was sentenced to die in the electric chair, saying that, “there is not any aspect of the defendant’s character or records… which would be a basis for a sentence less than death.”  He also sentenced him to 7-25 years for the attempted murder of Mr. Mellon.  Judge Crush announced Bell’s sentences including Death, 7-25 years for the attempted Murder, 5-15 years for attempted Aggravated Robbery, and 2-5 for Escape – all to be served consecutively.

 

AFTERMATH

During the trials, for all the effort expended in locating and arresting Reed, Sergeant Oberschmidt and Homicide Commander Lieutenant Dan Cash determined to do something to show their appreciation of the Cleveland Homicide Unit and East Cleveland Police Department.  They contacted Pete and Karolyn Rose to see if they could get tickets for a Reds vs. Cubs baseball game in Cincinnati.  Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 69 paid for a bus to pick up the northern Ohio cops and their spouses and bring them to Cincinnati and back.  Mrs. Rose invited them all back to their home after the game and she and the wife of Homicide Detective Robert S. Kramer cooked a spaghetti and meatballs dinner for them.  They also swam in their pool and Mrs. Rose took them on a tour of the home and of Mr. Rose’s trophy room.  About 2 a.m. the next morning, she loaded the bus up with beer and wine and sent them back to Cleveland.

Less than two months later, on March 6, 1979, the last of the “Three Musketeers,” Police Officer Dennis Bennington, and his partner, Police Officer Robert Seiffert, were shot and killed by another man wanted for Aggravated Robbery.  Two months after that, on May 5, 1979, Police Officer Melvin Henze was shot and killed by a man wanted for two counts of Felonious Assault.  Eight Cincinnati police officers had been shot and killed in 4.8 years.

Nonetheless, nine months later, the Ohio’s 1st District Court of Appeals overturned Bell’s death sentence on February 2, 1980.  The same court, on April 9, 1980, threw out convictions on two of three counts of aggravated murder and reduced three death sentences to life in prison for Wayne Reed.

Less than a year later, Reed’s conviction was further reduced to Murder on April 1, 1981 by the Ohio Supreme Court who said the evidence was not sufficient to convict him of Aggravated Robbery or Aggravated Murder, regardless of the twelve men and women who heard the evidence.  The same court refused to hear Bell’s appeal a year before.  They reduced his already reduced Murder sentence to 15 years to life.  “Four justices were ultimately responsible for overturning the rulings of 12 jurors, the trial court judge, three appeals court judges, and three other Ohio Supreme Court justices, according to then Sheriff Simon Leis.”

Finally, however, The People were heard.  Each man has come up for parole hearings.  Each time, an overwhelming number of Ohio residents flood the Ohio Parole Authority with letters objecting to their release.  At each hearing, their paroles have been denied.  Reed is incarcerated in the Madison Correctional Institute with another hearing scheduled for May 2019.  He will be 67 years old.  Bell is at the Southeastern Correctional Institute in Lancaster.  He also has a parole hearing scheduled during May 2019 at which time he will be 66 years old.

If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Memorial@Police-Museum.org.

© This narrative was researched and revised on July 1, 2018 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Memorial Committee Chairman.  All rights are reserved to him and the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum.