Served: 5 years
- August 19, 1973 to October 4, 1976 Cincinnati Police Division
- October 1976 to August 8, 1978, Jewish Hospital Security
- August 9, 1978 to October 25, 1978, Delhi Township Police Department
John was born June 3, 1955 to William B. and Alberta “Bert” (Geis) Bechtol. He attended St. Dominic Grade School and graduated from Oak Hills High School during June 1973. During his senior year, he worked at night at Bonanza Steakhouse. John played football, basketball, and softball and enjoyed fishing, hunting, and camping, but most of all he wanted to be a Cincinnati Police Officer.
Two months after his high school graduation, at the age of 18, John joined the Cincinnati Police Division as a Police Cadet. He began his chosen career in an exemplary manner. Cadets were then assigned to various assignments every six months. In his first assignment, Records Section, he earned a 90% efficiency rating. His next assignment was a preferred one at Training Section. He also served in Criminalistics Section. He consistently earned performance ratings between 90% and 95%. Many employees went their entire careers without a rating above 85%. He was a rising star, Vice President of his Class, and 21 years old when his Cadet Class entered their Recruit Training phase in 1976.
But, the City of Cincinnati was having financial difficulties; such that if a tax levy was defeated, hundreds of employees would be laid off. For John’s Cadet Class, they did not wait for the tax levy vote in November. The City promoted all 47 to Police Officer on October 3, 1976 and all laid off on October 4. The levy was defeated, and the city laid off another 124 police officers December 6, 1976. It would be years before Cincinnati would hire Officer Bechtol back – if at all. So, he looked for another police officer position, but there was a glut of experienced laid-off officers for the few positions available in the surrounding area. Officer Bechtol found employment with Jewish Hospital Security.
The Year 1978 was a big one in Officer Bechtol’s life. At Jewish hospital, he had met a payroll clerk, Barbara A. Holbrook, and on June 10, 1978, they married. Then Delhi Township Police Department hired him on August 9, 1978 and he moved his family to 4433 Glenhaven Road in Delhi Township. Once again, he was flourishing in his new career.
Then, on October 25, 1978, Officer Bechtol was responding east on Delhi Pike to an incident involving a mentally ill person on Rosemont. He and another cruiser behind him, driven by Officer Thomas Lanter, were responding with their blue lights and sirens activated.
At 5:18 p.m. David Allen Tipton (22) with two passengers, Sandy Sparks (17) and David Morris (23), was southbound on Pedretti, went through a red light at Delhi Pike, and struck Officer Bechtol’s cruiser broadside at the intersection. Officer Bechtol was thrown from the vehicle and killed in the crash. He is the only Delhi Township law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty.
Officer Bechtol was survived by his wife of three months, Barbara Bechtol; a 4-year-old stepson, Shane; his parents; and his siblings, Michael B. Bechtol, Mary Helen Bechtol, and Mrs. Teresa Huth. Visitation was held at the Vitt and Stermer Funeral Home at 4619 Delhi Pike. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Dominic Church. He was buried at St. Joseph (New) Cemetery on October 28, 1978.
Tipton was arrested for probation violation from a 1975 Theft conviction and charged with Failure to Yield to the Right of Way to a Public Safety Vehicle and Vehicular Homicide. On Monday, October 30, 1978, Tipton pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On Monday, November 13, Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Stew Mathews prosecuted the case and Thomas Amann defended Tipton in the trial presided over by Judge Ralph Winkler beginning November 14, 1978 in front of a jury of seven women and one man. The jury, on Wednesday, November 15, 1978 returned a guilty verdict.
After the verdict, Tipton’s previous eleven traffic convictions in four years was made public. These included driving while intoxicated, reckless operations of a vehicle, speeding, and violating traffic-control devices. On December 15, 1978, Tipton asked for leniency because he wanted to get his life back together, reconcile with his estranged wife – who he had married 1½ years earlier – and get a job. Seemingly, Judge Winkler was not swayed and sentenced Tipton to jail for the maximum six months, suspended his driver’s license for three years, and placed him on three years’ probation.
However, after six weeks in jail, on January 2, 1979, Judge Winkler suspended the balance of Tipton’s jail sentence. On the same day, Judge Thomas C. Nurre sentenced him to six more months in the Workhouse for the Probation Violation from the 1975 Theft conviction.
Tipton appealed the homicide case based on an allegation of improper procedure on the part of Judge Winkler. On November 28, 1979, the Hamilton County Court of Appeals upheld the conviction.
Eleven years after his death, during October 1989, Delhi Township dedicated a plaque to Officer Bechtol.
Sadly, Mr. and Mrs. Bechtol lived to experience the death of both of their sons and a daughter. William Bechtol, Jr. died suddenly at the age of 43 in 2000 and Mary Helen Bechtol died at 50 in 2007. Mr. Bechtol died at 84 during 2013.
Tipton apparently continued to drive poorly and was last known to be in Hamilton County when he was stopped three times and convicted each time of driver’s license violations: February 2013, April, and November. We believe he is out of state because he still owes the court on his last 2013 fine.
If anyone has any information, artifact, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident, please contacts the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This narrative was revised October 19, 2018 in anticipation of the 40th Anniversary of Officer Bechtol’s death, by Cincinnati Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society Vice President; including research conducted by Cincinnati Homicide Detective Edward W. Zieverink III (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Historian. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.