CANTON, Ohio — With his right arm pinned to the ground, Police Officer Tim Marks tried desperately to avoid the blows coming from an attacker wielding the officer’s own metal baton.
The man, though bloody and bruised himself, showed no signs of fatigue, no signs of slowing down.
He kept swinging, blow after blow connecting with the officer’s body as blood flowed from Marks’ nose and mouth and his thoughts began to fade. Marks remembers feeling sleepy and his brain screaming, “I need help now! I need help now!”
His gun was out of reach, but Marks had the presence of mind to pull his assailant as close as possible to make the blows less intense, something he learned in self-defense training.
He figured he might wake up in the intensive care unit in a month.
“I’m praying for help,” Marks said of the moment. “I’ve got fear, anger, adrenaline. I’m seeing a hospital, a grave stone. This is how it ends for me.”
As he felt himself begin to fade, he said, “out of nowhere, someone tackles this dude. Out of nowhere!”
It started as a typical Saturday afternoon, although for Dec. 3 it was unusually warm and sunny — about 55 degrees.
A woman was sitting at a four-way stop near Heritage Christian School with her 3-year-old daughter in the back seat when a man approached her on the driver’s side. He kicked her car and yelled obscenities through her window.
She quickly rolled up her window. She drove east on Sixth Street SW and called 911 from her cellphone.
Marks had just finished roll call with fellow officers Brandon Shackle, Kevin Sedares and Zach Taylor. He began his patrol shift, solo, and headed west from downtown on Sixth Street SW. As he approached Park Avenue SW, he saw the woman, who frantically waved him down.
She was telling her story about the man who had kicked her car when he rounded a corner and began walking toward the two cars.
“He was strutting. His chest was out,” said Marks, who had seen this walk before. He said some men project an attitude when walking past a cop, as if to say “you don’t scare me.”
Marks pulled his car toward the curb at an angle, hit his overhead lights and rolled down his passenger-side window. He called the man over.
“Hey, what’s up? What’s going on?”
The man, in his early 50s, told the officer he wasn’t doing anything. He denied kicking the woman’s car and shouted an expletive when asked for his name and identification. Then he walked away.
She had pulled her car in front of the cruiser and was watching out her back window.
Marks gave his location to dispatchers.
Officer Shackle had just gotten into his car around 2:45 p.m. when he heard Marks over the radio tell dispatchers that he was getting out of his cruiser for a “trouble call.”
Shackle, with nearly four years on the force, said a trouble call can turn bad quickly. When other officers hear those words, they are prepared to provide back-up. He headed toward the scene.
Officer Sedares was in the basement of the police department preparing equipment when he heard Marks report his location. A few seconds later, he said, his partner, Taylor, pulled up in a cruiser and said, “Get in. Timmy’s on a trouble call.”
They, too, headed west.
Marks walked around the back of his cruiser and approached the man.
“I said, ‘Hey, man, if I have to run after you, we’re going to have trouble.’ ”
The officer, though cautious, did not fear the older man, and he believed he could keep him calm while talking him into compliance.
Marks is a solid 5-feet-9, 190 pounds. At 38, he has a big personality and an easy smile, and he talks with his hands in an animated way.
He faced the man, who at 5-feet-10, 175 pounds, did not appear imposing.
“I use verbal Judo. I love talking to people,” Marks said later. “I can usually talk to anyone before going to violence.”
Marks said he took the man by the elbow to lead him to his cruiser. The man turned away, again.
“This time he wasn’t walking away, he was winding up,” Marks said.
A stunning, hard blow collided with Marks’ jaw. The punch sent the officer staggering backward.
Marks pulled out his Taser and fired it.
“He looked down at the probes in his chest and said, ‘It’s on, (expletive)!’ I knew I was in trouble, oh my God, I’m in trouble.”
The officer threw his Taser to the ground as the man landed a second blow to his nose, breaking it and creating the puddles of blood that would be evident even later that day.
Marks yelled into his shoulder radio for help. He then pulled out his metal baton and extended it. He remembers swinging and connecting solidly with the man’s head and face.
It did not faze him.
“I hit him 12 to 15 times, and he is not going down. I thought, ‘I’m going to have to shoot this guy. I’m going to have to kill him.’ ”
As Sedares and Taylor drove toward Park and Sixth, the dispatcher reported trying to get a status on Marks. Many calls to 911 were coming in at the same time reporting a fight.
“You get this gut-wrenching feeling when you get calls like this. I’m praying that he just didn’t hear his radio,” Sedares said.
Soon, a 911 caller reported that the fight did, indeed, involve an officer. Sedares said he looked at his partner and uttered an expletive.
As Shackle responded to Park Avenue, he heard through an open microphone the sounds of a struggle.
He heard Marks yell, “I need help!”
“He sounded distressed. You could hear it in his voice,” Shackle said. “I turned on the lights and siren and stepped it up.”
Marks could see and feel blood pouring from his nose. He was physically tired from swinging his baton at this man who seemed to feel no pain or fatigue. Deadly force seemed his only option.
Before he could reach for his gun, Marks said, the man landed one more solid punch to his mouth. It left him dazed and disoriented.
He reflexively brought a hand up to his face and, in that moment, the man picked him up and body slammed him to the ground. The man then pinned Marks’ right arm to the ground and began beating the officer with his own baton.
Marks can still recall men standing on a corner watching. He remembers some leaning against a building, smoking cigars.
Then — out of nowhere, or so it seemed — came help.
Tom Bowman, a salesman for Zoresco Equipment Co. in Brooklyn, Ohio, is a married father of two teenage daughters. He has lived on Park Avenue SW for about eight years and in the city for about 15.
His kids go to McKinley High School. His wife is a lunchroom assistant and volunteer in Canton City Schools. She works also as a site coordinator for an after-school program at Dueber Elementary.
His “quiet part of the neighborhood,” he said, is mostly senior citizens in their 80s and 90s. There are two schools and a church nearby. He’s always felt safe, even though he is cautious, often lecturing his daughters to be cautious as well.
He had never seen or heard of anything like the scene he witnessed Dec. 3.
“I was doing yard clean-up for an hour,” said Bowman, who was using a gas leaf blower in the yard of a vacant home next to his. When he turned off the blower, he heard loud voices from about a block away.
When he looked, he saw the two men face-to-face, arguing, beside the park at Heritage Christian School. At first, he didn’t realize one was an officer.
When he saw the stun gun, he knew.
When he saw the first punch, he ran toward them. It may have taken him 20 to 30 seconds to get there.
To Marks, those seconds felt like minutes.
Bowman came up behind the assailant. He wrapped his arms around the man, took him to the ground and got on top of him so Marks could get away.
A 6-foot-2, 280-pound trained Marine, Bowman is an imposing figure. Still, he said, “It took everything I had to get him off (Marks).”
Marks was on his hands and knees crawling to Bowman as he tried to hold down the man. Marks wrestled away the baton and hit the man with it twice. The blows, again, didn’t faze or calm man.
Marks and Bowman struggled to handcuff the man. Bowman sat on him while Marks lay bleeding on an embankment.
The rest was a blur for both men, as police cars swarmed the street.
Shackle was the first officer on scene. He saw Marks kneeling on the ground beside Bowman, who was sitting on top of a man.
The man was still kicking and fighting. Shackle picked up the man, he said, and got him properly handcuffed. The man continued to fight.
“For lack of a better word, he seemed crazy,” Shackle recalled. “He didn’t speak, just kept on fighting. I don’t think I heard him speak one time.”
Sedares and Taylor were next to arrive. Taylor went to help Shackle, while Sedares went to Marks, who by then was on his back on an embankment, bleeding and dazed.
“There’s like a feeling of rage,” Sedares said. “You think, ‘How dare him? We’re out here protecting people, and we give a (expletive) about people when no one else does.’ But, we have to remain professional.”
A 20-year police officer, 14 of those in Canton, Sedares immediately recognized the man who allegedly assaulted Marks.
A bad dude
Tab O. Hannon has a history of assault and domestic violence.
Sedares met him in 2003 when he was called to Church’s Chicken on Cherry Avenue. His partner went inside the restaurant while he dealt with Hannon, who was in the parking lot.
Sedares put Hannon against his cruiser and was patting him down when Hannon bucked back, turned and tried to punch him. Sedares knocked him to the ground, while Hannon kicked at him. As they struggled, a police dog arrived with his handler.
Hannon then jumped up and ran toward the handler, Sedares said, and the dog reacted, biting Hannon in the stomach. The handler punched the man twice in the face and he went down.
Bam continued to hold Hannon by his arm as he resisted arrest and the officer tried to handcuff him. He appeared to feel nothing, said Sedares.
“He was wearing a Members Only jacket and it looked like it went through a wood-chipper by the time we put him in the car,” he recalled. “He never lost the toothpick out of his mouth.”
He was charged with assaulting a police dog that night.
Hannon, now 52, is being held in the Stark County Jail on felony charges of assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and aggravated robbery for taking the baton from Marks.
Anonymous no more
A bruised and sore Tim Marks opened his newspaper Dec. 5 and read a story about himself, an unnamed Canton police officer who had been brutally attacked.
The brief Repository story, taken mostly from a police report, said a bystander “probably saved the officer’s life.”
That was not good enough for Marks.
“There’s no probably. He did. This guy saved my life, and I want people to know it,” he said. “There are still people out there who will put themselves in harm’s way to help someone.”
Bowman says he was simply in the right place at the right time.
“I did what I could do to help him out,” he said.
He said his wife and daughters heard nothing that day. After the scene was cleared, the family walked to the corner, and he showed them what had happened. Hannon’s hat still lay in the street.
Some neighbors, he said, complained about how the police had treated Hannon. Bowman just told them, “You didn’t see what he did.”
Savannah, 15, Bowman’s younger daughter, said it’s like her father to help others.
And it wasn’t the first time he had come to someone’s rescue. As a Marine in 1987, he received letters of commendation and a medal for stepping in and breaking up a fight in Thailand where an American man was being attacked.
Last Wednesday, Officer Tim Marks and civilian Tom Bowman met each other for the first time since being in the back of an ambulance four days earlier.
Marks bolted up the steps in front of Bowman’s house, wrapped him in a tight embrace and thanked him.
“I was terrified, man,” he said as both men teared up.
“I know, I know,” said Bowman.
The two men stood in Bowman’s front yard in southwest Canton looking down the road to the spot where the officer had feared for his life.
“I thought, ‘This guy’s going to kill me with my own baton right here in the middle of the street on a sunny afternoon,’ ” he told Bowman.
The officer’s slight limp and swollen jaw don’t fully illustrate the seriousness of his injuries, which were not life-threatening, but certainly life-altering.
A four-year veteran with the department, Marks, is a 1992 graduate of Central Catholic High School. He has served in the Army, has been a Stark County park ranger, worked on two smaller police forces and was a bar manager. This was the first time anyone had tried to kill him.
He wants people to know what he and other officers face daily.
“I’m letting the public know what’s going on in the street,” he said.
Marks will be off duty for at least another week while he recovers from his injuries, including a possible broken jaw, broken nose, a torn rotator cuff and a sore and bruised body.
He has been inundated with calls from other officers and many have asked for Bowman’s phone number and address in order to thank him personally.
Police Chief Dean McKimm said he can’t thank Bowman enough.
“I don’t think he realizes what character and courage he displayed when he did what he did. It’s great to know there are guys like him out there and they have our backs,” McKimm said.
Marks takes comfort in knowing he did his job by the book. He followed proper procedure for when an officer is getting punched. Deadly force is a last resort.
“This will not deter me. I love my job,” said the single officer. “It’s a learning experience. I can admit that. This will be with me for the rest of my life.”
As for Bowman, he has a blood-stained Ohio State sweatshirt and a great story to tell.
He has some fear of retribution in being singled out for what he did, but Marks assured him he need not worry.
He said if Bowman’s address is ever heard on the Canton police radios, he can expect an impressive and immediate response.
Bowman chuckled and said, “I figure this is good for one get-out-of-jail-free card.”
Reprinted with permission from the Canton Repository