News >> Browse Articles >> Officer Down News


Fallen Officer Forgave Teen Shooter Who Left Him Paralyzed

Fallen Officer Forgave Teen Shooter Who Left Him Paralyzed

But Hayes was never free of health problems or infections, and they seemed to get worse as he aged. A leg was amputated about six years ago. He had a heart attack last year, which laid him up for six months, and he bounced between the hospital and a rehab

Columbus Dispatch via YellowBrix

January 25, 2011

COLUMBUS – Two weeks before he was to take the job of Columbus police sketch artist, Officer Tom Hayes walked into a Clintonville convenience store to check on a reported disturbance.

It was 2:25 a.m. Dec. 18, 1979. Court testimony later revealed that at least one of the two teenagers in the store had been drinking and smoking marijuana and had taken LSD. Hayes, 30, tried to arrest them on curfew violations.

During a scuffle, one of the teenagers pulled out a gun and shot Hayes in the back, permanently paralyzing him from the waist down.

The next morning, Hayes told a priest that he had forgiven the shooter and was praying for him. Both teens were caught, charged and convicted.

But Hayes was never free of health problems or infections, and they seemed to get worse as he aged. A leg was amputated about six years ago. He had a heart attack last year, which laid him up for six months, and he bounced between the hospital and a rehab center.

About a week and a half ago, he asked to go back to his Marble Cliff home. He wanted to be with his wife and his two dogs at the end.

Hayes, 61, died yesterday.

Those close to Hayes talk about his passions – the parts of his personality that allowed him to move past the shooting. His deep faith in God, for starters.

But there was also his devotion to his wife, Mary, who took care of him and helped him through down moments; the years of weightlifting before and after the injury, which allowed him to get well faster than his physical therapists thought possible; his love of art, which would allow him to finally accept that sketch-artist job years later.

“He was made of tough stuff,” said the Rev. Kevin Lutz, pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church and the priest who counseled him the morning after the shooting.

“For all the pain and suffering and agony he has been through, he never showed it,” Mary Hayes said. “He was my hero.”

Mr. Hayes grew up in Grandview Heights. He met Mary when she was a waitress at the Black Horse Inn on the Northwest Side and he was home on leave from the Army. He was muscular from weightlifting and flashed “the best smile in the whole world,” she said.

He had to return to his Army duty in Germany, but they wrote each other. He drew cartoons on his letters.

He joined the Columbus Police Division in late 1972 and married Mary in 1973.

Police Chief Walter Distelzweig was in his class at the academy. “He was a great guy,” the chief said yesterday. “He continued to contribute to the department after he was shot.”

The shooting, the trial and Hayes’ recovery made headlines for months. A Gahanna lawyer, Robert Cohen, set up a fund for Hayes and eventually found enough contributors to build a handicapped-accessible home. Cohen had not previously known Hayes. His story had touched Cohen, though, and they eventually became good friends.

“He was a devout Ohio State fan,” Cohen said yesterday. “You didn’t call him during a game. I don’t care who you were.”

Hayes joined the police force as a civilian sketch artist in 1986 and worked there until 1997. In his spare time, he designed holiday cards for charity sales and badges for The Shamrock Club’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. For years, he would watch Ohio State football games and draw some depiction of the outcome, Cohen said.

He liked to spend time at the small house he and his wife owned on Lake Erie, and he increasingly turned his artistic talents to gardening, his wife said. People used to stop and ask who did their flowers, she said.

Lutz had given him last rites a few times over the years. Hayes wasn’t afraid of death, the priest said. He had long ago accepted what happened to him.

“You couldn’t find hatred in his heart,” Lutz said.

Calling hours are still being arranged through John Quint Treboni Funeral Home on the Northwest Side just north of Grandview Heights. A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10a.m. Monday at Holy Family Church in Franklinton.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    RIP brother

  • Sfa_iv_max50


    about 3 years ago


    A moment of Grace. Thank God for his heart. My prayers to the family. RIP

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    RIP my Brother You will be missed

  • Uniphone1_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Wow! A Christina in EVERY sense of the designation! Rest in Peace Brother, and God Bless!

    "Stay in the Fight"

  • Mourning_badge_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Rest In Peace. My Prayers for your Family, friends and coworkers.

  • Garita2_max50


    about 3 years ago



  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago

    Bump t1401hm

  • M-16_max50


    about 3 years ago


    RIP in officer. Your service will not be forgotten!

  • Animal007_max50


    about 3 years ago


    You are the kind of person that we all strive to be. RIP Officer Hayes

  • Images_max160_sq90_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Definitely a place in Heaven for this Guy

  • Hpqscan0002_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Rest in Peace

  • Marvin_max50


    about 3 years ago



  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


  • 1979_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Rest in Peace my Brother, you have more than earned it.

    This needs to be treated as a LODD. He was disabled in the LOD and eventually that is what lead to his death.

  • Me_max600_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Rest in peace.

PoliceLink School Finder

Save time in your search for a criminal justice degree program. Use PoliceLink's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

Get Info

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.

Recent Activity

chriswalker123123 commented on: "Would You Pass the Police Exam?", about 3 hours ago.
Chitown_finest commented on: "Right or Left?", about 3 hours ago.
Chitown_finest received the quiz result of "Democrat", about 3 hours ago.
chriswalker123123 received the quiz result of "You did not receive a passing score", about 3 hours ago.