In Remembrance (28 years ago)
Date: January 19, 1996 3:15 am
Location: I - 71 Northbound at mile post 190. North of US-250, Ashland, Ohio
Subject: Trooper James R. Gross, age 27, a graduate of the 124th cadet class June 25, 1993.
Shooter: Maxwell D. White Jr., age 30, 7635 Coronado Blvd., Reynoldsburg, Ohio
Events leading up to the shooting:
According to Doug Miller Former Lieutenant of Ohio State Highway Patrol, at 5:00pm on January 18, 1996, Maxwell White advised his mother that he was not going to work. He was employed by Kroger and worked at their warehouse in Columbus, Ohio.
White left the house and did not return home until midnight. He was intoxicated which led to a loud lengthy argument. His mother was concerned neighbors would call the police on her son, knowing he had been convicted of carrying a concealed weapon and was still on probation.
His mother also knew he was angry with police because he believed that they had harassed him on prior occasions. When White learned that his mother had called his sister Dorothy to come to the house, he became so angry that he began destroying things in the house.
Due to his prior conviction, White knew, he was not permitted to have a gun, but he went to his cabinet and grabbed a handgun.
When his sister arrived, he forced both of them downstairs at gun point and tied them up, but in the process, White accidentally shot his mother in the right ankle/foot. As he left, he stated, that “I am not going back to jail, it would be better going to the morgue.”
When White got in his vehicle and left, his Mother and Sister were able to free themselves, and call the Reynoldsburg Police Department.
Local Law Enforcement Agencies in Central Ohio were advised of the event and were given a description of the vehicle. However, it was unknown where he would go.
The Shooting Of Trooper Gross:
January 19, 1996, at approximately 3:00 am, at the Ashland Post (while giving the dispatcher a break), Trooper Gross overheard CB radio traffic of a possible drunk driver.
Truck drivers reported, the driver was heading northbound on I-71 approaching the Ashland exit. Trooper Gross immediately left the Ashland Post, and located the vehicle with assistance of commercial drivers using CB radio.
Unfortunately, Trooper Gross was not aware of the events, that transpired at White’s mothers house hours earlier in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Trooper Gross, believing he was just stopping a possible drunk driver, made the stop in the Northbound Lane of I-71, at milepost 190.
Trooper Gross approached the driver’s side of the vehicle to make contact with the driver. It is unclear whether the driver’s window would not roll down, the driver decided to open his door, or Trooper Gross told the driver to open the door.
A witness stated that the driver’s door was opened by the driver. It is believed that Gross was standing just a few feet from the driver, and Trooper Gross must have observed the gun. At this point, Trooper Gross turned to move away, and the driver fired a single round from a .45 caliber Smith and Wesson handgun.
This bullet struck Trooper Gross in the left elbow area, traveled down his arm, exiting at his wrist. Later this bullet was located stuck to the liner of his jacket.
Trooper Gross being left-handed, and now without use of his gun hand, retreated away from the vehicle.
A witness stated, “Trooper Gross slipped and fell, got back up, and had started running back toward the patrol vehicle bent forward, when they saw, and heard two more shots being fired.”
One of the two rounds fired, struck Trooper Gross just above the belt line, and below the soft body armor he was wearing.
According to the Coroner’s report, the bullet traveled upward, and severed his aortic arch, most likely killing him instantly. Trooper Gross fell at the rear of his patrol car. At this point, White left the scene and drove off going Northbound on I-71.
With the shooting observed by a number of commercial vehicle drivers, who then transmitted the events on their citizen band radios, the Highway Patrol Units were able to locate the suspect’s vehicle. A high-speed pursuit covering 29 miles ensued.
White wrecked his vehicle while trying to exit the interstate at SR-18, Medina exit. White was then subsequently captured without incident.
The Trial Of White:
Maxwell White was convicted of Capital Murder in Ashland County Court and was sentenced to death for the murder of Trooper Gross.
On February 3, 2005, while confined at the Mansfield Correctional Facility inmate White along with another death row inmate, Richard Cooley attempted to escape. Both were captured before they breached the outside wire. White was convicted of escape and received the maximum sentence, eight years in prison.
According to an Ashland Times-Gazette (ATG) article, written by Irv OslinIn. “On December 2005, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court vacated White’s death sentence and ordered him resentenced. The ruling was based on statements a juror made indicating she would take personal pleasure in recommending the death penalty. White is incarcerated at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown.”
(ATG) “June 19, 1996 -- A Common Pleas Court jury found White guilty of aggravated murder and other charges.”
(ATG) “July 12, 1996 -- Accepting a jury’s recommendation, late Common Pleas Judge Robert E. Henderson sentenced White to death for aggravated murder. He also sentenced him to consecutive prison sentences of three years for a firearms specification to the murder charge, five to 10 years for abduction, three more years for a firearms specification pursuant to the abduction charge and 18 months for having weapons under disability. (At the time he shot Gross, White was on probation for carrying a concealed weapon. In that case, White attempted to pull a loaded pistol from under his car seat after being pulled over by a police officer.) White will not be eligible for parole until he is at least 81 years old.”
The Life of Trooper Gross:
James Robert Gross was born January 12, 1969, to Robert and Barbara Gross. He graduated from Brunswick High School in 1987, then attended Akron University where he received an associate degree in criminal justice, in 1991.
While working his way through college as a restaurant manager, Jim Gross met Veronica Watson, the future Mrs. James Gross. James and Veronica were married on August 21, 1993, two months after graduating from the 124th Academy Class. During his brief career, he served at Mt. Gilead and Ashland.
Trooper James Gross Graduated with the 124th Academy Class on June 25, 1993.
Trooper Gross had served with the Ohio Highway Patrol for 2 years prior to the shooting.
Sergeant LaRue said, “Prior to Jim’s death, he had originally been assigned to the Mt. Gilead Patrol post where he was trained by Trooper Dave Schultz as his training officer. Once released from his training period, he had been granted a transfer to the Ashland Post, so that he could be closer to his home in Brunswick.”
“While at Ashland he had worked on my shift, or a good portion of the time,” Sergeant LaRue recalled, “and it was there that he investigated his first fatal traffic crash. The crash involved a commercial semi-truck driver that had left his disabled truck, and as he was walking for aide, he was struck and killed by another vehicle.”
Sergeant LaRue told me, “After his death, Lieutenant Bob Ferguson and I found six copies of his completed fatal crash report in his uniform locker that he had kept as mementos.”
At the time of his death, Jim was working the midnight shift under the supervision of Sergeant Tim Dreisbach.
The Profound Effects Of The Shooting:
I recently had a phone conversation with Dale LaRue a retired former Sergeant at Ohio State Highway Patrol a friend, and co-worker, of Trooper Gross.
We were talking about the profound effects this shooting had and the changes that have been made since then. Sergeant LaRue said, “as a result of the death, of Trooper James R. Gross, Unit 1413, a new program was instituted within Law Enforcement in the State of Ohio.”
The following is an entry from (A History of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.)
“In the summer of 1996, the Division and Colonel Davies launched a new officer safety tool, dubbed the COP (Caution Ohio Police) Initiative, created to offset a communications deficiency which hindered the communication of critical information among agencies. The COP Initiative was an early warning system that alerted officers to potentially dangerous suspects.
When law enforcement suspected a person of fleeing a crime, police officials could make a COP entry in Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) to assure that if an officer contacted the suspect before obtaining and placing on-line a proper warrant, the officer would be aware of the potential danger.
Although officers could not use a COP entry as a basis to detain or arrest, it did help assure that officers did not blindly approach a potentially deadly situation.”
Asking Chief Marcelli of the Ashland Police Division about some of the effect that this had on APD then and now, Chief Marcelli commented, “Coming just a year after the tragic loss of Lt. John Gisclon, Trooper Gross's death had a profound effect on everyone at the Ashland Police Division. The COPs bulletins became a regular part of every shift. These bulletins alone became a daily reminder of Jim's sacrifice. Law Enforcement tactics training changed as a result of this incident and have probably saved lives as well. Trips to Trooper Gross's memorial have become a permanent part of our FTO program. His sacrifice will not be forgotten.”
Trooper Gross Memorial Along I-71:
“What about that memorial I see every time I drive on I-71?” I ask Sergeant LaRue, “Who maintains it? Can you tell me a little about it?”
“The memorial that is in place today at the site of Jim’s death started off as just an American flag posted on the right of way fence for the highway.” Sergeant LaRue remarked, “When the flag and the fence began to deteriorate, myself and Trooper David Keener, an academy classmate of Jim, decided a more permanent memorial should be constructed.”
Sergeant LaRue continued, “Because the widening of the freeway from 2 lanes to 3 was being conducted, and the instillation of a permanent memorial within the right of way and on a new fence might not be appreciated, the property owner at that location was contacted, and gave permission for the memorial to be placed on their property, outside of the highway right of way. This was their way of paying tribute to the fallen officer.”
“The pine tree, that is present at the site, was a gift presented and planted by the owner of Simcak’s Spruce Farm who had coached Jim when he played softball,” Sergeant LaRue recalled.
Members of the Gross family joined Governor Bob Taft when he signed Senate Bill 153 on February 12, 2002 designating a portion of Interstate 71 in Ashland County as the "Trooper James R. Gross Memorial Highway." The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Armbruster of North Ridgeville, went into effect 90 days after Gov. Taft's signature and filing with the Secretary of State.
In researching for this story I came across a web-site; https://www.odmp.org/.../refl.../14709-trooper-james-r-gross I started to read some of the posts. I couldn’t help but feel some tears starting to swell up in my eyes. Although I had never met Jim Gross, I was amazed at how much his life and death has profoundly touched so many people.
One of the post really stood out to me, and I would like to share it. The post was from an Ashland Police Officer, now Detective Curt Dorsey, his following remark on this site reads as follows:
“I didn't know you sir. I didn't know of you until I started at Ashland PD in 2006. My Lieutenant at the time took me to the site of your memorial on the last day of field training. We visited other sites in the county of other fallen officers as well. I cannot express the gratitude that is felt for your sacrifice throughout Ashland Police Division. Your name is mentioned often and will never be forgotten. I'm now a field training officer myself and have had the privilege of taking several new officers to your memorial on their last day before solo patrol. Today is one of those days. Our prayer will be for your family and loved ones that they might have found some sort of comfort in knowing they will see you again one day. Our prayer is that your sacrifice will not be forgotten and will motivate us to battle evil in this world. Thank you for what you have done.”
Patrol Officer Curt Dorsey
Ashland Police Division
May 14, 2016
One more posted on November 17, 2005:
“Fallen but not forgotten! Thanks for your service, Jim. To the family of Trooper Gross, when I travel to Columbus I always remember to salute as I go by the 190 milepost. It is a reminder of the sacrifice Jim and his family gave on a cold January midnight shift.
Dear Lord, please bless this family especially Jim's children and give them peace and understanding in the years to come. May we all as State Troopers remember Jim and his sacrifice. May we lean not to our own understanding but acknowledge God in all our decisions and surely he will direct our paths. May God continue to bless and protect the Ohio State Troopers and their families as well as Officers all across Ohio.”
SERGEANT M. E. HILL U-896
Sergeant LaRue remarked, “With the date of Jim’s death being just after the 1-year anniversary of the death of Sheriff Lieutenant John Gisclon the entire community as well as all Law Enforcement were deeply stricken with the loss.” “Jim’s funeral was held in Medina with internment in Valley City Ohio. Because of my association with the post and with Jim, I was honored to lead the funeral procession to the cemetery and direct the folding of the flag and presentation to Colonel Warren Davies who then presented it to Jim’s widow, Veronica. There was not a dry eye on that field that day,”
Lieutenant, Raymond Durant of the Ashland Post of the Highway Patrol said, “we still have a moment of silence every shift on January 19th, here on post, for Trooper Gross.” “As the new Troopers are assigned to this post, Jim’s name is brought up in remembrance.”
When speaking with Ashland County Sheriff E. Wayne Risner, Wayne commented, “I’ve always told people that if you wanted to envision what a State Trooper was, all you had to do is look at Trooper Gross. He was a sharp looking, he carried and conducted himself like a true professional.”
Trooper Gross was the 33rd State Trooper to die in the line of duty in Ohio.
Trooper Gross is the 3rd State Trooper to be killed by gunfire in Ohio.
The first State Trooper, George Conn, who was killed outside of Freeport, Ohio, on September 27, 1937.
The second State Trooper was Robert Karmizki was killed near Bucyrus, Ohio, on March 31, 1957.
God Bless Trooper Gross’ family and Rest in Peace Trooper Gross, you will never be forgotten.
Thanks to the Ashland Post of the Highway Patrol, Ashland Police Division, and Ashland Sheriff’s Office.
Thanks to Retired Sargent Dale L LaRue (Ohio Highway Patrol) for the maintenance of the Memorial along I-71.
Thanks to Lieutenant Raymond C. Durant of the Ashland Post of the Highway Patrol for your help in this story. Also, special thanks to Sargent Dale L. LaRue and Doug Miller (Former Lieutenant of Ohio State Highway Patrol) for providing a photographs and information.
(Originally Published in 2018)