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Remembering slain Louisville officers 50 years later

Published: May. 6, 2021 at 11:15 PM EDT
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Louisville Police Department officer  Wilbur Hayes was killed in the line of duty on May 2,...
Louisville Police Department officer Wilbur Hayes was killed in the line of duty on May 2, 1971 while investigating a burglary.(Source: Steve Crump)
Louisville Police Department officer John Schaefer was killed in the line of duty on May 2,...
Louisville Police Department officer John Schaefer was killed in the line of duty on May 2, 1971 while investigating a burglary.(Source: Steve Crump)
George Grissom is a former Louisville police officer. Grissom holds on to the memories...
George Grissom is a former Louisville police officer. Grissom holds on to the memories connected to the May 2, 1971 deaths of his former LPD colleagues, Wilbur Hayes and John Schaefer.(Source: Steve Crump)
The names of Wilbur Hayes and John Schaefer appear on the Louisville Metro Fallen Officers...
The names of Wilbur Hayes and John Schaefer appear on the Louisville Metro Fallen Officers Memorial in Jefferson Square Park.(Source: Steve Crump/WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It was 50 years ago this week when a double homicide happened that rocked our city. Just a day after Canonero II won the 97th running of the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports, two Louisville Police Department officers were found shot to death in an alley.

The names of Wilbur Hayes and John Schaefer evoke emotional flashbacks to days of uncertainty after a violent crime that came during one of Louisville’s biggest weekends.

George Grissom is a former Louisville police officer who is currently a major on the command staff of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Grissom holds on to the memories connected to the May 2, 1971 deaths of his former LPD colleagues.

“It was the Sunday after Derby,” Grissom said. “It was around 10 p.m. and Hayes and Shaffer were riding together, and they had stopped two subjects in Waterbury Alley off of Kentucky Street.”

The suspects were on the run for days, and our city was clearly on edge. Louisville felt an unexpected jolt coming from a severe gut punch.

“Our radio was unable to contact them all night,” Grissom recalls. “And they were found early, the next morning in Waterbury Alley.”

Waterbury Alley runs from North to South parallel to Preston Street. The detectives were investigating a burglary at a nearby roofing company.

Hayes was found in his police car near Kentucky Street, and according to Grissom, Schafer’s body was discovered blocks away behind an old restaurant near the corner of Floyd and Breckenridge. Both had been fatally shot. The big question for investigators was who did it?

“I mean, it’s something that doesn’t happen every day,” Grissom said.

Within days, two suspects who were brothers emerged in the case. Later that week, Narvel and William Tinsley were arrested. The brothers were tried, convicted, and received life sentences. They were both paroled in 1988, 17 years after the crime.

Many of the officers who investigated the police homicides, and knew slain officers, are no longer with us.

“They’ve been long gone,” Grissom reflected. “A lot of them deceased.”

Still a community remembers 50 years later with flashbacks coming from historic headlines and by paying honor at present-day reminders discovered at Louisville’s police memorial.

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