My Book

Excerpt from my upcoming Book, SOUND OF SILENCE
© Lori Cooper ™
www.WriterLoriCooper.com

PROLOGUE

“119 to Dispatch. Shots Fired. Shots Fired. I repeat: this is 119. Shots Fired. Dispatch, I’ve got a 10-3. Please…we need a bus forthwith. We have an Officer down. Dispatch, do you copy?”

The Dispatcher was quietly frantic but firm in her resolve for more information. “Copy, 119. Please give us your location. We’re in contact with Medics now.” She’d heard the labored breathing of this Police Officer and thought he’d been the victim of gunfire himself. “119, we need your 10-17. Medics are asking for your location. 119, do you copy? Medics are asking again for your 10-17.”

The irony was that Officer Bob Stout’s adrenaline was pumping faster than a speeding bullet, almost as fast as the high-powered Browning 9 Millimeter which had struck his Partner, Officer Nick Cooper, at point-blank range. He was trying to regain both his breath and his composure. After running in circles, he was also fatigued, dazed, and working hard to overcome his confusion.

He didn’t know where they were. It was 10:00 PM on Wednesday, March 15, in the residential neighborhood called Walnut Heights. In 1972, street lights in this newly-built housing development in Columbus, Ohio were virtually non-existent. Columbus had its own 10-codes and didn’t follow the universal codes used by many Police Departments in the country. A 10-3 was “Officer Down.” A 10-8 was a “Burglary.” A “Bus” wasn’t the typical vehicle used as part of a city’s transit system to transport its citizens from one destination to another. In the Law Enforcement community, a “Bus” was an Emergency Squad. A 10-17 was the code used for Officers to report their location. In this case, without any technology other than a ‘radio mike’ in every Cruiser, a 10-17 was the difference between life and death.

“Dispatch, this is 119,” as Officer Stout was trying to catch his breath. “I copy. All I know is my Partner and I are a few blocks west of the last 10-8 call we radioed in not more than 30 minutes ago, the fifth residential burglary of the night out here. Please look up the location on our last run. I’m pretty sure we’re on Carbondale Drive. I’ve been in pursuit of the second suspect. I have my left hand in his coat pocket. He’s got a gun.” This was a call a Dispatcher never wanted to receive. One Officer down and another trying to gain possession of a second suspect’s gun to avoid getting shot himself, with a left hand holding the suspect and the right using the ‘radio mike’.

Realizing the degree of uncertainty and the possibility these men carried some kind of Police Scanner with them, a quick and swift decision was made: “119. Switch to Channel 2.” That was a frequency nearly impossible for even the most sophisticated criminal to access, but it was a move by The Dispatch Center requiring Officer Stout to lean inside of his and Officer Cooper’s Wagon to literally change channels like anyone would in 1972 on their vehicle’s AM Radio Dial. Officer Stout was 6’2” tall, 185 pounds, and towered over William Raymond Viars, Accomplice Number two in this burglary ring of three men and one woman, but he’d been shot three years before by a serial rapist and murderer, a man who was the same size as William Raymond Viars. He was aware of the danger Viars posed and told him not so much as to even flinch if he valued his life.

There was no 9-1-1 in 1972. Every person in the country who needed the help of a Police Officer or an Emergency Squad dialed “0” on their rotary-dial or their push-button telephone for help with a Police Officer or an ambulance or even the fire department. These were the kind of telephones that hung nicely on the walls of every home in America, and which now had begun to be offered in varying degrees of color. They were manufactured by Western Electric, the arm of the old Bell Operating Companies which made these telephones, those the vast majority of the good folks of the Walnut Heights subdivision went to work every day to assemble on their respective Assembly “Lines.”

Officer Stout had sweat running down his brow, despite the cold, March winter night. He’d fought with William Raymond Viars to confiscate the gun he knew Viars was carrying. Viars was certainly prepared for the all-out ‘blitz’ he and his ringleader and other fellow male Accomplice had carefully planned, wearing a heavy weight coat a couple of sizes larger than what a man of his stature of 5’8” and 140 pounds would wear, chosen specifically for its ability to conceal items he’d intended to steal. Camouflage in pattern and made of a rugged material much like a heavy weight, military-style or old Army Field Coat, it had large, deep pockets in front, much like cargo pockets, and was almost as long as a tailcoat.

Bob Stout could see that Viars’ left hand was nearly impaled into the left pocket of his Army coat, with something bulging and protruding outwardly. He was a Police Officer, trained to recognize when someone was carrying a firearm.  Viars couldn’t camouflage his 25caliber pistol he’d used all that evening with his ringleader, Charles Hays, and their getaway driver, Doug Cox, regardless of his coat. Together, these men were their own “force,” a small band of career criminals which made up their burglary ring, and at times, with Viars’ wife, Shirley, serving as the getaway driver.  They had inflicted a reign of terror on the hardworking, middle class residents of this usually quiet neighborhood, good people who worked together, lived alongside of each other, and even worshiped together at the same church right outside of their subdivision.

Howard Wilson had been Victim Number 4, asleep at 9 PM but awakened at 9:30 PM by the sound of voices in a low whisper and a loud rattle at his backsliding glass door. He grabbed his 12-gauge shotgun he kept under his bed, and methodically began to turn out all of his night lights: one in his spare bedroom adjacent to his own and the plug-in he had in his main bathroom in a wall outlet. He then quietly walked down the hallway where the 3-way hurricane lamp sat against the end of the wall. It often served as a night light to illuminate the living room and kitchen, and from which his sliding glass door opened to his outdoor, concrete patio. He saw shadows at the height of the L-shaped handle on the sliding glass door through his white silk-like sheer curtains. There were sounds consistent with the shadows working hard to pry open the door, but in a manner carried out discreetly, secretly, and with some semblance of patience. He felt an overwhelming degree of eeriness. At least two shadows were visible and a pair of men’s voices could be heard whispering outside of his door.

With the last maneuver of the screwdriver breaking the latch, Charles Hays and William Raymond Viars were about ready to unlawfully enter the home. Each man had a gun. Now rising from his crouched position against the Maple Hutch positioned elegantly against the wall opposite his door, he engaged the pump-action 12-guage shotgun, creating a noise so loud the two shadows of Hays and Viars moved quickly away from the door, both now running through the back yard and disappearing from the view of Howard Wilson’s property. He’d escaped the wrath Hays and Viars were prepared to inflict against him, ensuring his safety and that of his prized possessions for which he worked so tirelessly. He grabbed the cradle of his beige telephone which hung on the wall to the right of his door and dialed “0,” advising the Operator he needed a Police Officer dispatched to his home. He’d just escaped an attempted B&E. A frightening, nearly successful breaking and entering into his safe place. His haven. His home and sanctuary.

Little did he know that his neighbors, Elton and Sharon Acker, a young couple in their late 20s and who were still newlyweds, would arrive home from Wednesday night Bible Study, to another version of the Hays, Viars, Cox burglary ring, and a fate which would lead them to life…or death.

CHAPTER 1 - 44 YEARS ON THE LAM

I was driving home from my Mom’s house the evening after we’d had our Thanksgiving Dinner on November 24, 2016. I had my 8-year old Golden Labrador Retriever, “Sailor,” with me. He loved to ride in the car. Gahanna, Ohio is where my Parents settled, where I grew up, and from where my Family and nearly all of my lifelong friends hail. A suburb of Columbus, now approximately the 15th largest city in America, reading that statistic at the time gave me some sense of empowerment as I was driving with the flow of traffic on I-70 East.

Yep. We’re no longer that Cowtown some of you Interstate drivers on your way to see your Families in Pennsylvania or New York used to think we were. Columbus is in the big leagues, folks. We’re nearly the same size as Chicago or Baltimore.

The 45-minute drive along Interstate 70 East isn’t my favorite drive. Once out of the city, Interstate 70 becomes a haven for semi-truck drivers who like to take heed to the road as if they own it. Eventually, I exit at Route 158, and make the 9-minute drive to my front door.

It was about 10 miles outside of the portion of 70 East frequently traveled by local people who eventually exit to their suburban destination when I noticed in my rearview mirror that I’d picked-up a white SUV. With its bright lights on continuously, I prayed aloud: “Please move over into the left lane, or turn-off those high beams you’ve got on there, Pal.” But he stayed with me, and was traveling slingshot. I was angry enough to have wished I could have slammed on my brakes, without injury to myself or Sailor, but I convinced myself that I’d eventually lose whomever was behind me, especially by the time I hit my Exit of Route 158.

I was sadly mistaken.

Now, I was even trying to make myself feel better with twisted humor: “The Juice is loose. What’s O.J. doing in Ohio,” I asked myself, until I realized that proposition was about as bad as this demented driver was. “Onward, Lori. You CAN do this.” I even daydreamed that it wasn’t ‘The Juice,’ since he was incarcerated in Nevada then, but instead, it was ‘A.C.,’ Orenthal James Simpson’s best friend.

“Right, Lori. It’s Al Cowlings in that White SUV.” I chuckled, desperate to find some humor in this nightmare. I knew I was being followed. I knew Mr. White SUV was following me, but I didn’t know who he was or why he wasn’t even trying to disguise the tail.

The Columbus Dispatch had featured a glimpse into my journey of finding Charles Hays a few weeks before, the man responsible for shooting a Columbus Police Officer on March 15, 1972 - an honorable Family man and public servant who was just 29 years old, but who had forfeited a professional career in The National Football League to answer to HIS calling - to serve and protect the great citizens of the city of Columbus.

Charles Hays had never held a real job his entire life. At 37 years old, he’d shot a Police Officer 44 years before, without so much as placing any value on the Officer’s life or that of his other victims. He’d carried a 9 Millimeter gun and assembled at least two other men, even utilizing the wife of his accomplice in Viars, to carry out their specialty crimes: Breaking and Entering into the homes of middle-class Americans, all over the Midwest and into the southeast.

The Front Page Headline Story of the October 8, 2016 Edition of our city’s Newspaper was my story. My mind was traveling in every direction. I kept repeating to myself over and over: “Lori. YOU did it. YOU found the man responsible.” But the real question became why did I have to do so? How had he managed to live ‘on the lam’ for 44 years? Where had he been? I couldn’t wrap my mind around how he’d hidden from authorities for forty-four years. Over four decades. An eternity that now boiled down to my trying with all of my heart and soul to persuade local authorities to go forward with the Grand Jury’s 14-count felony indictment scheduled for April of that year in 1972. Charles Hays was still very much alive then. Officer Nick Cooper, sadly, was no longer of this Earth.

Officer Nick Cooper, Badge 340, was my Dad.

We were all traumatized. I was 9 years old when all of it happened, but I made sure to never forget the few things my Father had shared with me, details I knew would become a part of my purpose. I just didn’t realize it would be more than 40 years after-the-fact, and possibly place my own life in danger.

I had to concentrate on one thing and one thing only at that moment, despite the various directions my spiraling thoughts were moving. Travel in only one direction, Lori. Lose the SUV, and get home, and safely.

I’d done enough research to uncover that at least one, if not two, of the Hays Family members were into 81 World, the organized crime division of The Hell’s Angels. The 8 represented the letter “H,” because it’s the 8th letter of the Alphabet, just as the number 1 represented the letter “A.” These same two members of his Family also alleged they were related to Charles Manson, coined the worst cult mass-murderer in American History. "How had all of this unfolded?" I spoke aloud. Saying it made it that much more real. I learned none of us in my Family had ever processed the trauma and pain. We'd been living in a permanent state of denial for over four decades.

With scattered memories of that horrific night of March 15, 1972, among them the shooting, the notification at our door by two Officers, the burglaries and the victims, I’d lived in what felt like blazing Hell. There was my Dad’s death, forty-plus years of silence, the Media beginning to demand my findings, and a huge puzzle and mystery surrounding the events. I wondered how I was going to figure out all of this by myself, and just whom to trust. I’d begun to find a long history of serious crimes not only perpetrated by Charles Hays, but also by his offspring, and Family ties to Manson and organized crime. Though I didn’t want to admit it, my armor was beginning to wear a bit thinly.

I worked hard to convince myself that being afraid wasn’t a part of my deck. It wasn’t who I was, and I wasn’t about to buckle, fold, or reveal my hand-to anybody. That was for amateurs.

I’d collected a whole lot of incriminating information, and though I had a couple of people I’d kept in-the-loop for my own safety, my silence was to ensure none of the possible players knew the cards I’d been dealt. I had a Royal Flush. All of it was so unbelievable, and only a story one could see in the movies.

Certainly, I didn’t have the imagination to ever create such Fiction. I was sad, too. It’s one thing to cheat in a game of Poker, but when the Joker wasn’t a part of the Game, that was another. I wasn’t about to allow my late Dad’s legacy to be that of taking the heat for anyone who wore the Uniform or the Badge,  anyone among ‘The Brass,’ much less being “the Joker to the thief,” as Jimi Hendrix sang in “All Along The Watchtower” in the late 1960s. Over my dead body. Charles Hays should have been one ‘in the yard’ being supervised by every Guard in the Hendrix tune.

My list of people was long, and I was working it steadily, with every single person who was on the scene that cold winter night in March of 1972. As I would make inquiries about a certain Officer I’d determined was on the scene, I’d learn he’d already passed. I’d also learn about those who were in positions of power to make my late Dad a Scapegoat and The Fall Guy then, and with those in power in the Administration serving at the time I found his shooter 44 years later, in August of 2016, who still wanted to hide behind what had happened out there on that cold night.

There was one high-ranking Commander who made egregious claims about how 25 caliber guns confiscated by any Columbus Police Officer never made it to the property room. Instead, they were low-level guns, he’d suggest, without power, and often, instead, would be placed in a Detective’s desk or placed in the trunk of a cruiser or Detective’s car - they just were irrelevant, he’d add. And then there was the nefarious misdeed of a critical crime scene photo being altered-one of which I’d seen the 4x5 Proof in this same Commander’s office with my own two eyes.  And the alleged high-ranking Female Officer who pretended to befriend me-a set-up. A trap. “Lori, don’t trust anyone,” was the advice I received from some who served alongside my late Dad and some who serve today; a nightmare from which it all felt I could never awaken, except I always knew the truth would prevail. Even at the expense of death.

But for now, it was time to make a clean sweep from Mr. White SUV. I was getting panicky. Afraid, even. I just didn't want to make that admission. I was about ready to learn why the silence for over forty years was so damn loud.

©️Excerpt from SOUND OF SILENCE, By Lori Cooper ™