Fatigued and fighting: How civilians came to aid a cop under attack
As he tried to gain separation from a dangerous suspect, an officer suddenly found himself on the ground and vulnerable
Just minutes after questioning a familiar face about breaking into a residence, an investigating officer found himself on the ground, engaged in close-quarters combat. In an instant the cop was on his back, with a delusional, enraged man on top of him.
Just minutes earlier, Franklin (Ohio) Officer Christopher Keene was starting his ninth hour of what was supposed to be a 16-hour double shift, when he heard a call come over the radio about a possible burglary nearby.
As the dispatcher announced the name and address, Keene realized who the suspect was — a man the Franklin police had dealt with several times before, who had a history of resisting arrest.
41-year-old Charles Cole had attempted to break into his ex-wife’s home, according to dispatchers, who had received a call from her that June afternoon.
As Keene reached the street where the burglary occurred, he found the man he was looking for. Keene approached Cole and started speaking with him about the break-in. He noticed Cole was growing increasingly frustrated, and then things got strange.
"He started talking about arch angels, and that’s when I thought he must be having a mental episode," Keene recollected.
"He kept his hands in his pockets, he wouldn’t listen to what I had to say — he told me [the situation] was none of my business when I told him his ex-wife had called police."
When Keene ordered Cole to place his hands on the vehicle, he refused, and took off running.
"He made it five to seven feet before I got a hold of him, and he struck me in the face with a closed fist strike. I tried to gain separation — I backed up, but I tripped and fell on my back. The suspect got on top and had control of the situation."
Still, Keene managed to throw punches on his back. He tucked his head and managed to toss Cole off of him.
A Citizen Comes to Aid
They were both back on their feet and now in front of Keene’s cruiser, where the dash cam was recording. The footage shows Cole tackle the officer and both men fall to the ground — this time with Keene on top.
As the two continued to struggle, a bystander came upon the scene and scrambled to help hold the suspect down. Seconds later, a second man jumped in to help the officer.
"I was starting to get tired at that point, and the suspect didn’t seem like he was slowing down at all, so thought I felt like I had control at that point, [those guys] definitely helped,” said Keene. "It ended a lot sooner than it probably would have without them."
Thanks to the two Good Samaritans, all that was left to do was cuff Cole. He was charged with burglary, assault on a police officer and obstructing official business.
Though he’d been in an encounter before in which a suspect tried to disarm him, Keene, a full-time officer since 2006 and a reserve officer prior to that, said this was the first incident where he knew the suspect was intent on hurting him.
“You could tell by his yelling and what he was saying that if he could have knocked me out, he would have done some serious damage.”
Keene walked away with a laceration to his face and a strained neck. He was seen at the local ER and released, and given two days leave from the department.
When asked if he was surprised to see two civilians jump in and help an officer, Keene replied, “I expected it. I’ve always treated people with respect so I wasn’t surprised that people came and helped.”
Keene knew one of the two men from prior run-ins with the law, but said the two had been courteous toward each other in those encounters.
“If you treat people with dignity and respect, they give it back,” he said. Weeks after the incident, Keene says he came upon one of the two bystanders who helped. The man said he was happy to help and wasn’t about to let something happen to the officer.
Keene has since seen Cole only once: picking him up from the hospital and transporting him to jail about a week after the incident.
“He kept his head down the whole time, wouldn’t look at me or speak to me, so I’m pretty sure he knew it was me.”
Cole struck a plea deal and pleaded guilty to assault on an officer. A judge in Warren County sentenced him to a mere 12 days in jail for the attack, with time served.