Tuesday, December 9, 1997
Shock, grief and guilt

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

They must think we civilians are impossibly naive sometimes, with our talk of rubber bullets and our talk of bean bags and our talk of pepper spray. Talk. Talk. Talk. These police officers who for 30 days will be wearing black bands across their badges must wonder if the rest of us know what goes on out there.

Well, thankfully, most of us don't, most of the time.

Driving up Vine Street on my way to the place where Officer Daniel Pope and Spc. Ronald Jeter were murdered, I saw two cops at work directing traffic. A block later, another officer was writing a parking ticket. Business as usual.

Hollister Street doesn't look dangerous, a one-block slice in Clifton Heights linking Vine and McMillan streets. Some fresh paint, aluminum siding on narrow buildings. No broken windows. No graffiti. No junk cars. An arrest warrant for domestic violence brought police to this little street.

Garden-variety domestic violence.

Flowers and tributes

Of course, police officers know there's no such thing. In 1987, the last time this happened, the Cincinnati police officer killed was handling a domestic disturbance complaint.Officer Clifford George was in uniform, in a bulletproof vest. But, like Officer Pope and Spc. Jeter, he was shot in the head.

No flowers at 23 W. Hollister for Linda Pope's husband or Brittany Jeter's father. The flowers and tributes are on granite, at the feet of a bronze statue across from police headquarters on Ezzard Charles Drive in the West End.

The memorial to fallen officers, which began to take shape in October 1988, was completed piecemeal as nearly $200,000 was raised.

Raffles, payroll deductions and donations raised about $170,000 by 1990. Most of the money came from the police officers themselves.

It's hard to imagine some sports figure or politician having to go out and hustle his own monument. Heck, let the taxpayers pay for it.

Bible and a cap

At the memorial's dedication in May 1990, an officer said he hoped the peaceful setting would provide a place for officers to collect their thoughts.

But not right now. Now there is a nearly steady stream of visitors.

The air smells like bayberry. Candles burn near the dozens of fresh flower bouquets. Someone thoughtfully left a box of Ohio Blue Tip wooden matches. It's windy. And cold.

Cheryl Scriber of Westwood shivers as she reaches out to read the inscription on a plaster angel. Ms. Scriber was the victim in a stickup last year at the gas station where she works. Ronald Jeter responded to the call, and ''he's been my friend ever since, like, checking on me. I appreciated it, but I never said so. I feel bad. You know?''

She walks around the memorial, looking.

A red cap with a gold Marine Corps insignia. A white New Testament. Lots of cards. A teddy bear. Artificial tiger lilies in a vase.

A police cruiser pulls up to the curb and two officers get out. One is tall, young, and the other with a few more years on him, stocky and mustached.

The shorter officer picks up the Bible, puts it down.

The other man squints up, then down, then pinches his nose with his fingers and walks back to the curb.

They don't stay long, and they look miserable.

Another friend of Spc. Jeter straightens a small bouquet of roses. ''I just talked to him,'' Elyse Blakey said. Isn't that something we always say when someone dies unexpectedly? As if our talking to him was protection of some sort.''

Shock. It's shock.

Those of us who awoke Saturday morning to the bad news are reminded it's a dangerous world out there. That is something those people wearing black tape over silver shields knew all along.

Today's report

911 boss admits error likely
Updated funeral information
City thanks slain heroes
Killer's family visits his home
Forces across Tristate take heed
Names to be added to memorial

Monday's report

Argument preceded shooting
Tragedy puts face on job Cliff Radel column
Families lean on faith, memories
Friends, acquaintances mourn
Grief stays, say families who know
Police deaths declining

Sunday's report

Community mourns fallen officers
Suspect's family: He was 'respectful'
Sequence of events
Officers highly regarded
Officers deal with sorrow, job's risks
Chief's message: 'Take care of each other'
Hollister St. residents shocked

Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.

PULFER ARCHIVE