Officer William Harold “Bill” Fletcher had been Jail Sergeant before returning to the road as a Patrolman. He was patrolling the north end of the city Thursday, April 6, 1967. At 4:43 P.M., a call was received from the bank on the southeast corner of 45th Street and Broadway. The bank manager reported a man pounding on the door, shouting, and demanding, entrance to the closed business. Officer Fletcher was dispatched to the call. When he arrived, he pulled his car to the south curb of 45th Street in front of the bank. He contacted the bank employees, finding everything was okay inside, he tried to talk to the man, John Calvin Cooley, who was still there at the front of the bank.
Cooley was belligerent and continued shouting. Portable radios were not issued then, so Officer Fletcher had to walk back to the patrol car to radio in. He reported the bank was okay, but he may have trouble with Cooley. As he completed his radio transmission, Cooley began walking toward him. Officer Fletcher left the patrol car and met Cooley on the curb. After speaking for only a few seconds, witnesses saw Cooley strike Officer Fletcher on the left side of the face. Officer Fletcher grabbed Cooley and tried unsuccessfully to handcuff him. During the scuffle, Officer Fletcher lost his footing and fell to the ground. Cooley either fell on or bent over the fallen officer. Two citizens crossing 45th Street to help Officer Fletcher saw Cooley get Fletcher’s service revolver. Cooley fired at least two shots into Officer Fletcher’s chest as he tried to get up. Cooley stood up and fired two shots toward the approaching citizens who turned and ran. Motorcycle Officer David Richard Van Curler turned onto 45th Street, pulling up to the curb. Cooley fired one shot through the windshield of the motorcycle, striking Officer Van Curler in the chest. The bike fell onto its right side, the officer falling onto the grass swale.
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.
page honoring Officer David R. Van Curler.