Served: 5½ years
October 29, 1972 to July 15, 1978
Chuck was born November 8, 1948 to Charles A. and Martha Burdsall. He attended Oak Hills High School, graduating during 1967. He worked as a Gulf Oil service station attendant on Ebenezer Road, then on a roller bearing assembly line until October.
During October 23, 1967 Chuck enlisted in the United States Army and was wounded in Vietnam. He 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 University of Cincinnati and worked variously as a service station manager and mechanic.
On October 29, 1972 Chuck joined the Cincinnati Police Division as a Police Recruit. On February 25, 1973, he was promoted to Patrolman and assigned to District 3 (Price Hill). On March 31, 1974 Patrolman Burdsall transferred to District 5. Within his first 5½ years, he had already received eight letters of appreciation and/or commendation.
On July 14, 1978, at 11 p.m., Patrolman Burdsall began working 3rd Shift and was assigned to Car 508. David Mellon, a teen-aged son of Patrolman Bart Mellon, was considering a law enforcement career and was on that night participating in a Cincinnati Police ride-along program. He was also assigned to Car 508 with Patrolman Burdsall.
Less than an hour after roll call, an off-duty Police Officer making a purchase inside the King Kwik convenience market at McMicken and Dixmyth Avenues was suspicious of two men, Wayne Reed and Russell Bell, who appeared to be casing the store for a robbery. The officer communicated his concern to Police Communications along with the description of the vehicle – a 1966 Chevrolet two door with a loud muffler.
At 12:10 a.m., on June 15, 1978, Patrolman Burdsall found the car on McMicken near Dixmyth, got behind it, activated his red light, and pulled the car over at 3001 West McMicken Avenue.
As he approached the car, Wayne Reed suddenly came from the driver’s door, squatted into a crouch position, raised a revolver toward Patrolman Burdsall, and shot three times at him from a few feet away. He then pivoted and shot twice at David Mellon. He got back into the car and drove away.
Patrolman Burdsall, mortally wounded and with bullet wounds to the mouth, side, and back, fell to the ground. Mellon, shot once in the back, ran from the passenger side of the police cruiser, grabbed the officer’s revolver, and shot at the suspects as the car pulled away.
Mellon then picked up Officer Burdsall’s radio and called for help, but had trouble recalling the Car Number. Officer Burdsall said, “Five-oh-eight. Five-oh-eight.” They were his last words.
Officer Phillips was the first officer on the scene. There was nothing he could do. Officer Burdsall and Mellon were taken to General Hospital. Mellon’s wound was not serious and he was treated and released. Dr. Stanton pronounced Officer Burdsall dead at 4:30 a.m.
Officer Burdsall left a wife, Karen Burdsall, and three children, Melissa Burdsall (7), Eric Burdsall (5), and Christopher Burdsall (3) and his parents and siblings. His brother, Donald Burdsall, retired as a Lieutenant from the Police Department several years later. Officer Burdsall is buried in St. Joseph (New) Cemetery.
Several of Mellon’s shots had connected with the car and later helped identify Reed and Bell.
Wayne Reed, after his arrest, told investigators that he would have shot any officer who got in his way. He was sentenced to die in the electric chair. Later in 1978, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Ohio’s laws regarding capital punishment (for 175 years) were unconstitutional. Reed’s sentence was commuted to life. Several times in the intervening years, Reed’s parole board hearings, including one on July 30, 2014, have been accompanied by letters of outrage from Hamilton County residents. He continues to be incarcerated in the Madison Correctional Institute with another hearing scheduled for May 2019. He will be 67 years old.
Russell Bell was similarly sentenced and his sentence was also commuted to life. His parole hearings, including one on July 30, 2014, have also been futile. For reasons unknown to us, he has been moved from London Correctional Institute, where he had been held for decades, to Southeastern Correctional Institute in Lancaster. He has a parole hearing scheduled May 2019 at which time he will be 66 years old.
During 1995, all the badge numbers for Cincinnati officers killed in the line of duty since 1950 were ordered retired. Officers who were reissued these badge numbers, except Officer Burdsall’s No. 87, voluntarily surrendered their badges and those numbers were retired. When the officer who has Officer Burdsall’s badge retires, No. 87 will be retired.
If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Director@police-museum.org.
This narrative was researched and revised on December 17, 2014 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President. All rights are reserved to him and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.