GALLIPOLIS — Fifty-two years ago, on a midnight shift at the Gallipolis Ohio State Patrol Post on May 3, 1965, Patrolman Clifford L. Russell was patrolling State Route 7 north of Gallipolis. He ran a vehicle check of a car parked in the roadside rest area north of town. A few moments later, the dispatcher advised Patrolman Russell the car was involved in a missing person case in Wood County, where foul play was suspected. A case investigation would later reveal that the driver had killed an elderly man near Bowling Green and stole his car.
Upon approach of the car, Patrolman Russell observed a lone occupant seated on the driver’s side of the front seat lying across to the passenger side. As Patrolman Russell opened the driver’s door of the car, the occupant sat up and fired point blank. The bullets struck Patrolman Russell in the abdomen. Although seriously wounded, Patrolman Russell immediately returned fire, striking the suspect.
Patrolman Russell realized he needed medical assistance because of his own gunshot wounds. He made his way to the edge of the roadway and used his flashlight to wave for help. Moments later, a Gallia County man delivering a load of milk to Marietta recognized Patrolman Russell’s alerts and immediately stopped to render assistance.
Patrolman Russell told the man he had been shot. The man offered to take him to the hospital, but Patrolman Russell adamantly declined because his duty was to secure the scene until backup officers arrived and he was properly relieved.
They would later learn that the attacker died after Patrolman Russell fired back in self-defense. But at the time, without knowing if the suspect was alive or dead and without regard to his own safety, the man chose to stay with Patrolman Russell to assist with securing the scene and provided first aid.
For his actions that May morning, Patrolman Russell was awarded the Highway Patrol’s highest award for valor, the O.W. Merrell Award. The award was presented by Colonel Robert Chiaramonte and Mr. Merrell himself in April 1966. The award states in part, “Although seriously wounded, Patrolman Russell radioed for assistance and steadfastly remained at the scene until other officers arrived. He retained command and even directed others in administering first aid to him for his own critical injury. Patrolman Russell’s great courage and determination exemplify the finest in police tradition and reflect outstanding credit on himself and the entire State Highway Patrol.”
Sgt. Russell recovered from his wounds and continued an honorable career before retiring in 1991.
As far as the milk truck driver who stopped to help that morning, his name is Russell Fellure of Gallipolis. If Fellure had not answered the call for help that night, the outcome may not have been the same. He was thanked for his assistance at the time by mail, but upon learning about this story earlier this year, Col. Paul Pride decided to give him a more proper thank you – even 52 years later.
A statement from the Patrol states it “was deeply honored to have Mr. Fellure at the OSHP Training Academy, along with his wife Judy, during an annual retiree cookout” on Friday in Columbus. At the cookout, Fellure was given a certificate of appreciation. The award states:
On May 3, 1965, Russell Fellure stopped in a time of emergency to help an Ohio State Highway Patrolman. The patrolman, Clifford Russell, had been shot by a motorist while investigating a car connected to a missing person case. After returning fire at the suspect and calling for backup, Patrolman Russell knew he needed immediate help due to his gunshot wounds. He approached the nearby roadway, waving his arms and signaling for help with a flashlight.
Mr. Fellure didn’t hesitate to answer the call for help. Mr. Fellure provided the necessary first aid and steadfastly remained with Patrolman Russell until backup and emergency services arrived. He even kept watch over the vehicle and the attacker to ensure Patrolman Russell was not in any further danger.
Mr. Fellure, despite personal risk, showed great courage and selflessness through his willingness to assist a patrolman in a critical event. His actions reflect well on his personal courage and character. For his courage and actions, Mr. Russell Fellure is hereby awarded the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Certificate of Appreciation.
Prior to the award being presented, Fellure said he wasn’t aware that he was sitting across the aisle from the man he helped all those years ago. He said in 52 years, they had both changed and that fateful night when they met that one time, he wasn’t worried about what Russell looked like, just helping him. After Fellure was called to the stage so was Russell and the two men shared the same space for the first time since that night on State Route 7 in 1965.
“It was wonderful meeting him,” Fellure said. “Everything went great and I couldn’t ask for a better day. I’m glad I got to meet him. His wife congratulated me and thanked me…hugged me.”
Fellure later found out, the patrolman had a six-week old baby at home at the time of the shooting.
Fellure said he was shocked to get the call from the Patrol, stating they wanted to honor him. Fellure said he got a “nice letter” from the law enforcement organization 52 years ago and, as he put it, “that’s the last I’d heard about it until now.”
In fact, as Fellure’s wife Judy put it, aside from family and close friends, not many people knew of her husband’s role in the incident all those years ago. At the time, she said it didn’t receive much newspaper coverage in an age when there were no 24-hour news channels or online information sources. She said her friend, Lt. Col. Kevin Teaford of the Patrol, had heard about the story from dispatcher Bill Brown. This story was one that needed to be remembered in the history of the law enforcement organization.
“We haven’t thought about it for years and years,” Judy said, stating at the time, her husband was only 20 years old (he is now 73) and they were not married yet, but engaged back then. “I just can’t believe they did this after all these years. If it hadn’t been for Bill Brown getting the information to Kevin and remembering it…they (the Patrol) planned a beautiful day for us. They all went out of their way to make him feel special.”
Part of making the Fellure’s feel special, was an escort by the Patrol from their home in Gallipolis to Columbus and back. It was also a day they got to share with some of their family members.
Though Fellure said he will never forget Friday’s special day, he also will never forget that night on State Route 7. He said it was around 2:30 or 3:30 a.m. He was filling in for his brother-in-law and driving a milk truck, something he normally didn’t do. Judy is convinced too much was going on to chalk it all up to coincidences or “right place at the right time.” She said it’s “one of those God things. God put him in the right place to help someone.”
The patrolman definitely needed help, with Fellure saying when he drove up upon the scene, Russell was on his knees, waving his flashlight. Fellure pulled over and went to Russell.
“He said, ‘oh my God, he shot me,’” Fellure recalled, saying he offered to take Russell to the hospital but he wouldn’t leave without securing the scene and the suspect who Fellure said appeared mortally wounded and had two guns in the vehicle with him. Fellure said as instructed by Russell, he helped him over to the cruiser where Russell radioed for help.
“He got down on this knees and laid his head in the driver’s seat and radioed in for help,” Fellure recalled.
Next, Fellure said he asked if the patrolman had a first aid kit and Russell indicated one was in the trunk. He then got a blanket and wrapped it around Russell without any training just instinct.
“It had to be the good Lord,” Fellure guessed. “I didn’t know anything…He told me what to do evidently. I wasn’t nervous at the time but it shook me up afterwards a little, but I did what needed to be done.”
Backup soon arrived and Fellure was about three hours late making his milk delivery to Marietta that night.
“I’d do it again,” Fellure said.
Sgt. Tiffany L. Meeks of the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Beth Sergent, editor of Ohio Valley Publishing, both contributed to this article.