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.