Officer Ronald H. Manley, 27, was shot and killed when he responded to a hold-up alarm at an all-night drugstore at 1744 N. Illinois Street on December 12, 1974.
At about 4:30 am, two men entered the Hook’s drugstore and ordered the cashier into a rear room. The suspects then disarmed a security guard at the store and forced the pharmacist into the back room. The pharmacist managed to activate the store’s hold-up alarm signal, but one of the suspects noticed his movement and asked, “Did you just call the pigs?
The alarm registered in police headquarters, and Officers Manley and Kent Knapp were dispatched in separate cars. Officer Manley was the first to arrive and walked into the store with his revolver drawn to confront the suspects, ordering them to drop their weapons.
As Officer Manley backed the two suspects, later identified as Norman Woodford and Robbie Allen Woods, out the front door, two shots were heard by the security guard. One of the suspects had fired a .357 magnum pistol, striking Officer Manley in the head. Almost simultaneously, Officer Manley fired his service revolver, striking Woods in the chest. Both Officer Manley and Woods fell to the ground.
Attendants in a passing ambulance saw the shooting and stopped to administer first aid to both men who were then rushed to nearby Methodist Hospital where both died. Chief of Police Kenneth Hale was with members of Officer Manley’s family when the officer died in surgery at about 6:30 am.
Witnesses identified Woodford from pictures as the second man involved in the hold-up who fled from the scene in what was believed to be a 1975 blue Chevrolet Caprice. A controlled search conducted by nine teams of uniformed police officers, totaling 36, worked closely with detectives assigned to the case.
Woodford was arrested after a daylong search at about 6:55 pm in a house in the 300 block of North Sherman Drive behind which the suspect Chevrolet was parked. He carried a .38 caliber snub-nose revolver, but offered no resistance to the arrest. He was charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery.
Thomas Finch also was arrested and charged with being an accessory for having housed Woodford after he fled to Finch’s residence immediately following the robbery and shooting. Stolen merchandise from the drugstore was found at the residence.
Woodford was given a life sentence in 1976 after he pleaded guilty to Officer Manley’s murder. He became eligible for release after serving 20 years. His bids for parole were denied in 1995 and 1998. In 2003, over objections of the Manley family, the police department, and the prosecution (all of whom believed Woodford to have been the triggerman) Woodford was paroled to Arkansas in December.
Woodford and Woods were suspected by police to have committed burglaries and robberies from Birmingham to Detroit. Woods was an escapee from the Alabama State Prison at Birmingham where he was serving a 2 to 4 year term for forgery. Woodford had been arrested the Monday prior to the fatal shooting on a drug charge and was free on $200 bond. He had been arrested two weeks prior for assault and battery and was under $500 bond on that charge.
Speaking of Officer Manley’s death, Chief of Police Kenneth Hale described the murder as “a frightening trend – a trend we have seen more and more of in which criminals are afraid of no one, have no fear of murdering policemen or innocent citizens. These people have no respect for human life. I am sickened by it.”
Officer Manley was survived by his wife, Stephanie, a son, and two daughters, ranging in age from 6-8. Born at Greensburg, he attended Beech Grove High School and was appointed to the police department in 1969.
Services were held at Little and Sons Beech Grove Funeral Home, with burial in Mooresville Cemetery. Police officers lined Alabama Street to give a hand salute in final tribute as the funeral procession passed in front of police headquarters.
Source: The Indianapolis Star, December 13-15, 1974. The IndyChannel.com, November 4-5, 2003.