Family Remembers 1970 Murder of Police Officer

TOLEDO -- It has been 37 years since a Toledo Police officer was killed in the line of duty, and still, no one has been convicted of the crime.  Officer William Miscannon was shot as he sat in his patrol car on September 18, 1970.  A suspect was tried twice for the murder, but each trial ended in a hung jury, leaving Miscannon's children say they have yet to get any closure.

"I just want to see justice done.  I had a father who wasn't there for birthdays, graduations, weddings," said Diane Miscannon.  She was only ten years old when her father, Officer William Miscannon was shot and killed while on duty.

Diane remembers the phone ringing at home that night after her dad died, but she thought it was a nightmare until the news reported it the next day.  "You still have that hole in your heart because a piece of your family is missing," Diane said.  "At ten years old, your father doesn't die, especially in a brutal way."

William had only been on the force for there years.  Father of four, he was just 33 years old.

On September 18th, 1970, he was sitting in the passenger seat of his police van at Dorr and Junction.  He was parked near the headquarters of the Black Panthers.  It was a turbulent time.  Racial tensions were running high.  Suddenly, a man approached the police officer and shot Officer Miscannon in the head.

The funeral was huge as hundreds of officers paid tribute.  Jeanette Hurst, who was divorced from William, remembers the pain of telling their kids about the tragedy.  "It was hard.   How do you explain to youngsters that kind of situation?" asked Hurst.

Police arrested a suspect that night a few blocks away -- 25-year-old John McClellan.  "There seemed to be absolutely no doubt about it at the time.  None whatsoever," said Hurst.  But McClellan tells News 11 he was just a man in the wrong place at the wrong time, on his way from one bar to another when police arrested him.  "As I was coming down the street, police cars were running, shots were ringing out.  Police cars racing.   Wagons racing up and down the street," said McClellan.  "Policemen shooting back and forth at each other because it was just like chaotic."

McClellan, who now works as a legal courier for 18 attorneys, is adamant about his innocence.  When asked whether he murdered William Miscannon, he replied, "No sir."  When asked if he knew who did, he answered the same.

But in 1970, police were convinced that McClellan was the killer.  Miscannon's partner testified that he saw McClellan walk up to the police wagon and shoot Miscannon.  But, at trial, there was conflicting testimony from a waitress who said the partner was actually in a restaurant when the shooting happened.

Twice, McClellan went on trial, and after agonizing deliberations, each case ended with a hung jury.

"Some of the stories I've heard as I've gotten older is there were payoffs, there were threats, there was intimidation," said Dianne Miscannon.  "There was evidence lost."

"I have great empathy for the man who was the victim's family.   I can understand how they feel, but not at the expense of making me a victim," said McClellan.

Diane Miscannon says she does get some comfort attending a police memorial service each May, but for her, closure would only come if her father's killer was convicted.  "There are cases that are cold longer than this and I very much want to see justice done in my lifetime," said Diane.

"I'm sure that there will be a day that whoever killed Bill dies.   He'll get his justice," said Hurst.

Posted by AEB