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Road and dock closures around the City of West Palm Beach.

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Officer David Van Curler 1967
  • Officer David Richard Van Curler
  • April 6, 1967

This is a continuation of the incident on the page honoring Officer William H. Fletcher.

Cooley walked over and tried to shoot Officer Van Curler again. Witnesses heard the clicks from the empty gun. This apparently infuriated Cooley, who struck the officer in the face with the gun then kicked him. Discarding the empty gun, he reached down and took Officer Van Curler’s revolver. Officer Fletcher managed to get up and enter his patrol car. He tried to call for help, but his message wasn’t understandable. He left the car and walked to the back, steadying himself on the car. Cooley advanced toward him, firing Van Curler’s gun. Officer Fletcher fell to the ground and didn’t move. Cooley, continuing to shout, struck Fletcher in the head with the now empty gun. He then began to walk west toward Broadway, just as Lieutenant Edward Auditore arrived. Lt. Auditore saw Cooley throw the gun in then grass as he passed Officer Van Curler.

Lt. Auditore reported Cooley turned toward the motionless bodies of the officers shouting, “Come kill me. I did it. I want to die now. Kill me now. I am John the Baptist.” Lt. Auditore grabbed Cooley from behind. Officers James W. Keeling and Ralph E. Kinser arrived. The officers together managed to handcuff Cooley.

Lt. Auditore went to the fallen officers. Officer David R. Van Curler, age 31, and Officer William H. Fletcher, age 52, were dead. Chief William M. Barnes, Inspector Joseph Macy, and Captains Henry Baumhauer and Joe Panozzo arrived on the scene. After learning the officers expired, these high ranking officers assisted in crowd control.

Earlier that same afternoon, John Calvin Cooley’s wife had filed papers in court to have him committed. Cooley was committed to a state mental hospital after being found not guilty of the murders by reason of insanity. He died there some years later.

Officer William H. Fletcher was a 19-year veteran. He is survived by his sons, Jim and George Fletcher. Officer David R. Van Curler was a four-year veteran of the West Palm Beach Police Department. He is survived by his widow, Ellen, and his children, Evelyn, David, Daniel, Laura, and Vern.