Columbus, OH - The family of Officer Niki 'Nick' Cooper is devastated after they received the news that a judge will not allow the trial of a man who shot the officer in 1972.
The presiding Judge determined that prosecutors on the case never followed through on the charges against now 82-year old Charles Hays for the crime and let it 'slip between the cracks.' The right to a speedy trial was missed and now 45 years later Franklin County Judge Guy Reece will not let the case move forward.
After she lost her father three years ago at the age of 71, Lori Cooper begun looking in to old records on the shooting. When she learned the case was still open, she immediately contacted prosecutors hoping for justice in the decades old case. It was discovered that Charles Hays had a warrant issued for the shooting, but due to a filing error it had never been served.
Columbus police officer Nick Cooper was shot in the arm in March of 1972 when he interrupted a burglary. He never regained full use of his arm after the incident according to Fox News and was permanently disabled. Officer Cooper was able to return fire and struck suspect Charles Hays twice during the shoot-out. Hays became a paraplegic as a result.
Two accomplices in the burglary were charged and plead guilty. Hays was properly indicted on counts of intentional shooting, burglary and larceny., but due to his injuries went immediately to multiple hospitals to be treated. What happened next now remains in dispute.
Hays was first hospitalized in Columbus then at a veteran's hospital in Cleveland. Afterwards he landed in Kentucky and ended up in jail for new crimes committed. Ohio authorities were notified of his location and informed that an ambulance would be needed for transport. It appears that Hays was never picked up for the outstanding charges connected to the shooting and the case was forgotten about by the State.
Hays continued to live out his life, being arrested in Connecticut and Kentucky. He ended up back in Ohio and according to his attorney Robert Essex, lived at the same address in Dayton for the last ten years. The State had ample time and opportunity to move forward with the case and they never did, he said, violating Hays' rights to a speedy trial.
Prosecutors took it before a judge and argued that Hays had never demanded a speedy trial and acknowledged that the State neglected the case. They argued that Hays highlighted his medical condition each time he was to be brought for trial.
The Judge was not forgiving of the State's mistake and said that the right of a fair and speedy trial is a constitutional one and he would not overlook the 45-year time lapse. He also pointed out that the State had multiple opportunities to bring Hays to justice, considering he lived nearby in Dayton. "Not only is it important for the defendant, but it's also important for society as a whole to have a criminal case resolved in a timely manner," Judge Reece said on Thursday.
The Cooper family hopes to appeal the decision. Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien has not said whether he will pursue an appeal.
"I didn't accomplish what I set out to do, and that was to ensure that justice occurred. And that didn't happen today," Lori said.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cooper family during this ordeal. Officer Nick Cooper's sacrifice and his family will never be forgotten by your brothers and sisters in blue. We hope justice is forthcoming and the Prosecutor goes to the fullest extent of the law to get justice for Hero Cooper.
Do you think that Charles Hays should still be charged for shooting Officer Nick Cooper? We'd like to hear what you think. Please let us know in the poll below or on our Facebook page.