Served: 5½ years
October 29, 1972 to July 15, 1978
Chuck was born November 8, 1948 to Charles A. (a Powell Valve methods engineer) and Martha Burdsall. He attended Oak Hills High School where he participated in football. He also participated in boxing to improve himself for football. Chuck graduated in 1967 and attended the University of Cincinnati for a brief time.
He also worked as a Gulf Oil service station attendant on Ebenezer Road, then on a roller bearing assembly line until October 1967.
After his discharge, Chuck attended the University of Cincinnati and worked as a service station manager and mechanic.
On October 23, 1967, four months out of high school, Chuck enlisted in the United States Army. After basic training, Private Burdsall completed an administration course in April 1968 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He served a tour in Vietnam, then volunteered to serve a second tour. During one of his tours, 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, Chuck was appointed Police Recruit in Cincinnati’s 58th Recruit Class. Theirs 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 alphabetically. Recruit Dennis Bennington, Recruit Burdsall, and Recruit David Cole, were seated together and would eventually start calling themselves the Three Musketeers. Within 6½ years, all three were shot and killed in the line of duty.
They completed recruit training and Recruit Burdsall was promoted to Patrolman on February 25, 1973, issued Badge Number 87, and assigned to District 3 (3201 Warsaw Avenue). A little more than a year later, on March 31, 1974, he was rotated to District 5 (1012 Ludlow Avenue).
While on his way home on April 26, 1974 and carpooling with Patrolmen Roger Sexton and Phillip Schmerr, a twenty-year-old Harrison man who had come to Fairmount to hunt for some men he had problems with, mistook the officers for those men in the 1700 block of Westwood Northern Boulevard. The Harrison man pointed a shotgun out his window at the policemen. They took evasive action, then followed him to Beekman Street where they corralled and arrested him.
On March 31, 1977, Police Chief Myron Leistler commended Officer Burdsall for his investigative skills. By May 1977, he was assigned as a plainclothes investigator. On August 22, 1977, he was commended for an investigation and arrest of auto thieves and separately commended for an investigation and arrest of robbery suspects. On January 19, 1978, he was commended for his aggressive patrol techniques. And on July 7, 1978, he was commended for his actions during a response to a barricaded person. Within his first five years, Police Officer Burdsall had developed into a first-rate officer and already received eight letters of appreciation and/or commendation.
Before and after the murder of Cincinnati Detective Howard Smith (1971), 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. Chief Carl V. Goodin and experts from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) determined that Cincinnati needed 200 more officers for maximum police efficiency. The complement in 1975 had been 1,132 officers and 218 civilians. After Patrolman David Cole’s murder (1974), 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 three more officers’ murders – Sergeant Charles Handorf (1974), Police Officer William Loftin (1975), and Sergeant Robert Lally (1975) – City Council laid off dozens of police cadets, canceled the Police Cadet program, laid off 124 police officers, instituted a Police hiring freeze, closed the Target Range significantly reducing the officers’ ability to maintain marksmanship, and made other decisions detrimental to the Division and its officers.
The criminal justice system was not functioning well either.
WAYNE REED was born November 13, 1951 in Cleveland but lived in Cincinnati most of his life. Little is known about Reed from Chicago, other than he had a criminal record there. Reed’s first arrest in Cincinnati was May 14, 1977, for Grand Theft. The People of Ohio, through their representatives, had established Grand Theft as a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Five days after his arrest, three people, an assistant prosecutor, a defense counsel, and a judge, determined that it should be a misdemeanor. The judge issued a suspended sentence of thirty days, ordered him to complete forty hours of “alternative service,” and put him on probation for one year.
While completing his alternative service, Reed met Daryl Broyles in an automotive class at the Stowe Adult Center.
He was caught stealing again eight months later and charged with Petty Theft on January 28, 1978. The People of Ohio, through their representatives, determined that a second Theft conviction, regardless of the value of the theft, was a felony punishable by up to five years. The judge sentenced him to three days in jail. On March 16, 1978, his probation officer filed a Probation Violation warrant for violating the probation given him in the first felony. The first judge sentenced him to a thirty-day sentence on March 30, 1978. Still nowhere near the two to ten years he should have served by then.
After Reed’s release, 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 would just “blow him away.”
RUSSELL WILLIAM BELL was born December 17, 1952, possibly in Cincinnati. We have no access to his juvenile records, but at nineteen he was arrested in 1972 for a Burglary on Dorchester Avenue and indicted on March 23rd. The People of Ohio, through their representatives, determined Burglary to be a felony punishable by up to fifteen 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, through their representatives, considered this another fifteen-year crime. We do not know where he was between 1974 and 1977, but we assume he spent a little time in a Kentucky prison.
At 25, he was arrested on March 16, 1978 in Ohio for Carrying Concealed Firearm; another felony which the People of Ohio determined should be punishable by up 10 years in prison. Days later, a prosecutor, defense counsel, and judge determined it should be 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 thirty-day sentence, one day before Wayne Reed started serving his. By May 1978 he was living at 2460 Victory Parkway.
Bell also had graduated to armed robbery with Reed. Both men should have been in prison, but instead, on July 14, 1978, they were armed and staking out a King Kwik convenience store at Dixmyth and McMicken Avenues.
Police Officer Burdsall was working 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. on June 14, 1978 and assigned to Car 508. David Mellon (19), son of Cincinnati District 5 Police Officer Bart Mellon and friend and neighbor of Police Officer Burdsall, was considering a law enforcement career and, on that night, was participating in the Cincinnati Police Civilian Observer Program. At 10:30 p.m., he came to District 5 and met with Police Officer Burdsall. Coincidentally, Police Officer Burdsall’s brother-in-law, Assistant Operator Dispatcher Kenneth A. Kleeb, was dispatching that night at Police Communications.
Less than an hour later, 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, and were assigned to Sector 52, but they were closer than most cars in Sector 51, so they responded. When they arrived, the suspects drove out a back exit. They followed the car 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 alighted from the patrol car, had his sidearm in his hand pointed down, and ordered 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. Those shots went completely through his body and caused massive internal bleeding. Reed pivoted toward Mr. Mellon, who dove onto the sidewalk, and shot twice more striking Mr. Mellon in the back. Reed and Bell then ran back to their car.
Patrolman Mellon had taught his son how to shoot a pistol. Later, Mr. Mellon 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. I ran in front of the police car for Chuck’s gun. It was laying in the middle of the street.” He grabbed the officer’s gun and, while kneeling on one knee, shot six times at the escaping suspects. “They were just starting to pull away when I started firing. I heard the reports of my bullets hitting the car.” All six struck the car, but none penetrated the occupants.
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 arrived on the scene within seconds. Mr. Mellon was on the ground and in pain. Police took Officer Burdsall and Mr. Mellon to General Hospital.
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.
Officer Burdsall died on the operating table at 4:30 a.m., becoming the fifth Cincinnati law enforcement officer to die in four years.
Officer Burdsall was survived by his wife, Karen (Chinn) Burdsall; children, Melissa Burdsall (7), Eric Burdsall (5), and Christopher Burdsall (3); parents; grandmother, Mathilda Reinersman; and siblings, Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Donald Burdsall, Gene Burdsall, Greg Burdsall, and Beverly (Kenneth A.) Kleeb.
A visitation was held on Tuesday, July 18, 1978 at Niedhard-Minges Funeral Home at 3155 Harrison Avenue. Mrs. Burdsall requested a Cincinnati-officers-only funeral. There was a steady flow for four hours of law enforcement employees and friends in and out of the funeral home. FOP services were held at 7 p.m. On Wednesday, July 19th, a half-mile-long cortege escorted his remains to the funeral service. More than 600 mourners filled the Church of God at 3220 Central Parkway for the funeral service officiated by Rev. Sim Wilson. Officer Burdsall was buried in St. Joseph (New) Cemetery.
Immediately following the shooting, the suspects were the subject of an intense search by fellow officers. Police throughout Hamilton County (and probably all contiguous counties) spent all of July 15th pulling over vehicles that closely matched a green 1966 Chevrolet, possibly an Impala, with a with a rust spot under the driver’s door. 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.
Since the shooting, Homicide Squad Commander Lieutenant Dan Cash, had begun working around the clock, heading home occasionally for a shower, nap, and change of clothes. 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.
By the 18th, police were stopping every green car and every shade of green. Then, the 1966 green Chevrolet Impala was found. Jerry Ayers (23), the seven-year YMCA Williams Branch building superintendent, found the car in their parking lot. Mr. Ayers was another participant in the Civilian Observer program. About 11 a.m., he reported finding a vehicle matching the description, with no license plates, and “with bullet holes in it.” There were two holes in the driver’s door and four more in the body.
Mr. Mellon had identified Reed from six random mugshots. Evidence found inside the car confirmed Mr. Mellon’s identification of Wayne Reed’s photograph. Detectives issued a national bulletin and had a warrant issued for Reed.
The owner of the car was Barbara Brown, Wayne Reed’s girlfriend. She 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 the police with his location on Tuesday night, July 18, 1978. He was arrested at a friend’s apartment at 559 Armory (now Derrick Turnbow) Avenue at 9 o’clock, 93½ hours after the murder. He was taken to Criminal Investigation Section at 222 E. Central Parkway, questioned, and at 1:13 a.m. Lieutenant Cash escorted him to Central Station (City Hall jail).
Sergeant Paul “Skip” Morgan reported the arrest of Bell on Wednesday, July 19, 1978 and that a second suspect, Wayne Reed, was being sought. Police believed Bell drove the getaway vehicle after the murder.
Cincinnati Detectives contacted Cleveland detectives because they believed he returned there. Cleveland had a mug shot of Reed and were scouring his old neighborhood for him.
On Wednesday, July 19, 1978, Bell was charged with Aggravated Murder. He was arraigned on Thursday, July 20, 1978, in the Hamilton County Municipal Court on a charge of Aggravated Murder and defended by Leslie Isiah Gaines. Judge John Ranz set his bond at $750,000.
Lieutenant Cash and Prosecutor Simon Leis, Jr. discussed on the 20th, the possibility of a direct indictment for Reed.
Cincinnati Police seized two of Reed’s suitcases from the basement of Bell’s apartment and one 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. Police had been warned that Reed had asserted that he would never be taken alive. 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 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 the 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.
Sergeant Oberschmidt and Police Officers William Lewis and Terrence Wheeler drove back to Cleveland to pick him up. Reed, after his arrest, told investigators that he would have shot any officer who got in his way.
Judge Peter Outcalt was set to preside over the Bell trial and kept his bond at $750,000 and set his trial date 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 “Willie” 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.
Nonetheless, nine months later, on February 2, 1980, the Ohio’s 1st District Court of Appeals overturned Bell’s death sentence. 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 whose job it was to hear the evidence and render a decision based on the evidence and not hearsay. The same court refused to hear Bell’s appeal a year before for the exact same allegations; such are the vagaries of appellate courts. They reduced Reed’s already reduced Murder sentence to 15 years to life. “Four justices were ultimately responsible for overturning the rulings of twelve 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 flooded the Ohio Parole Authority with letters objecting to their release. At each hearing, their paroles have been denied. Their next hearing is scheduled for May 2024. They will be 71 and 72 years old, respectively. Reed is incarcerated in the Madison Correctional Institute and Bell is at the Southeastern Correctional Institute in Lancaster.
During the trials, for all the effort expended in locating and arresting Reed, Homicide Commander Lieutenant Dan Cash and Sergeant Oberschmidt 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 police officers 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 Pete 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.
Assistant Operator/Dispatcher Ken Kleeb resigned shortly after his brother-in-law was killed.
Less than two months after the convictions, 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. Finally, after those murders, the rest of the laid-off officers were recalled, but no new officers were hired before 1980; lay-offs occurred repeatedly; and eventually the complement was reduced to less than 900.
If you know of any 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 June 24, 2023 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 Museum.