Even though there is no statute of limitations on attempted murder of a police officer, Charles Hays will not face prosecution for the shooting of Columbus police officer Niki Cooper.
In 1961 Niki Cooper graduated from high school after being a standout football player for his school. He received an athletic scholarship from the University of Tennessee, but after a short time in college, Cooper returned to Columbus, Ohio where he married his high school sweetheart.
Being a responsible husband, Cooper joined the Columbus Police Department and worked his way into the elite D Platoon, which was a fast-responding SWAT-like groups of trained officers.
On March 15, 1972, Cooper and his partner Officer Robert Stout, responded to a call to a new subdivision on the city’s southeast side. There had been a rash of burglaries and the D Platoon was ready to respond to any calls in hopes of catching and stopping the burglars.
Arriving on the scene, Stout went to the back of the house and Cooper remained out front, speaking with the homeowners. Stout surprised the two burglars and managed to get one of them, William Viars, in handcuffs. The second burglar, Charles Hayes, ran around the front of the house where Cooper gave pursuit. Hayes pulled his gun and shot Cooper in the upper left arm. Cooper returned fire and then wrestled with Hayes as the burglar tried to get Cooper’s gun from him. Hayes was shot 4 times and was hospitalized. Cooper than ran to Stout, telling him that he had been shot.
The injury to Cooper’s arm proved to be disabling. He underwent multiple surgeries but was never able to straighten or bend his arm.
Hayes was hospitalized and recovered from his wounds. He and Viars were indicted for multiple burglaries and shooting with intent to kill a police officer. They were convicted of the burglaries and sentenced to 5-30 years in prison.
When Hayes was released from the Ohio prison, he was arrested on other charges in Kentucky and sent to Connecticut for a burglary charge. He ended up spending four years in a Connecticut prison and then was released.
In the meantime, the paperwork on Hayes indictment for shooting with intent to kill a police officer fell through the cracks and virtually forgotten.
Officer Niki Cooper died in 2013 from a stroke. His daughter, Lori Cooper said her father never talked much about the shooting, but did say that the man who shot him never served a day in jail for the shooting. This prompted her to look into the case and push prosecutors to renew the case against Hayes.
However, Common Pleas Judge Guy Reece opted to dismiss the felony charge of shooting with intent to kill a police officer, against Hays, now 82-years-old. In his decision, he pointed out that a Kentucky judge had signed an extradition order to allow Hayes to be returned to Ohio to face the charges, but for reasons not clear, prosecutors in Columbus failed to extradite or pursue prosecution of Hayes for shooting Cooper.
Ron O’Brien, the prosecutor for Franklin County who argued before Judge Reece to allow the prosecution of Hays to move forward said he was not surprised by the decision since the case was so old. He and his staff are reviewing the judge’s decision to determine if they will appeal to the county Court of Appeals.
Lori Cooper, Officer Cooper’s 51-year-old daughter, hopes that O’Brien will appeal the ruling and continue trying to prosecute Hayes for trying to kill her father. She commented:
“I don’t think anybody can go out and attempt to murder a police officer and elude the law for 44 years and not have a penalty or a consequence at the end of it.”
Just because the case against Hayes fell through the cracks years ago, shouldn’t mean that the mistake cannot be corrected and that he finally faces the serious charge he was indicted for many years ago. It also shouldn’t matter how old Hayes is now. He tried to kill a cop and legally, he needs to be held accountable for that egregious action.