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New Hero Search Ronald F. McLeod
- May. 07, 1969 -
(256)

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Miami Police Dept. Patch
Resided: FL, USA
Born: Sep. 09, 1938  
Fallen: May. 07, 1969
Race/Sex: Caucasian Male / 30 yrs. of age
Agency
Dept: Miami Police Dept. - FL
400 NW 2nd Avenue  
Miami, FL   33128   USA
(305)603-6640
County: Miami-Dade
Dept. Type: Municipal/Police
Hero's Rank: Patrolman
Sworn Date: 9/1960
FBI Class: Homicide - Ambush
Agency URL: Click Here
On The Job: 9 years
Bio: Ronald Flirl McLeod was born on Sept. 9, 1938, in Miami to Newton Flirl McLeod and Fannie Sue Longino McLeod. One of his brother's recalls that Ronnie was born at home while his curious siblings and neighborhood children were "sent out to play." His father was from Valdosta, GA, and was one of eleven children (seven daughters). His mother was from Cordele, GA, and was one of seven children (six daughters). His grandparents (McLeod and Longino) were also from the Valdosta area. Officer McLeod was of Scottish ancestry, though a Miami newspaper would later report at his death that a superior described the fallen officer as "a burly fellow with a map of Ireland all over his face."

Ronnie was the youngest of five children: George (born in 1927), Harold (born in 1929), Raymond (born in 1931), Betty (born in 1934), & Ronald (born in 1938). George was born in Valdosta while the other four children were born in Miami. Ronnie's father died in 1940 when he was only two years old leading to hard economic times for the family. Harold McLeod remembers that their home was paid for "but that was about all we had." Ronnie's mother worked long hours at two jobs and the Salvation Army provided some help to the family. Ronnie never forgot the help given to his family by the Salvation Army and later in life aided them with many of their projects.

Ronnie's older siblings looked after him while his mother worked (George being the oldest, 10 years older than Ronnie). Harold McLeod remembers that 8-year-old Ronnie especially loved to ride double with him around the neighborhood on his motorcycle.

Ronnie grew up in Miami but often spent the summers in Valdosta, GA, with his Uncle Oscar McLeod. Ronnie loved the summers in Valdosta, especially swimming at Grand Bay Creek and jumping off the bridge at the "old swimming hole." His childhood was not trouble free as he got into some type of trouble at 13 and spent several months at the Boy's Home in Kendall. That experience made an impression on him and he never got into trouble again. And perhaps the "delinquent experience" helped form his desire to become a law enforcement officer. His brother, Harold, remembered only one childhood friend of Ronnie's, Ralph "Bones" Miranda.

Ronnie attended Pinewood Elementary for grades 1-6 but his schooling got off to a bad start as, on his first day in the first grade, he left after lunch to go home and take his nap. Ronnie also attended Horace Mann Jr. H.S. and Edison H.S, graduating from Edison in 1956. One of his 1956 Edison Sr. classmates was Adele Khoury, future wife of Sen. Bob Graham. A second was Arva Moore Parks who recalls that Ronnie McLeod was her prom date at Horace Mann Jr. High School. In 1995 Arva Moore Parks was a prominent Miami historian who was completing a history of the Miami Police Department to mark the 100th anniversary of the City of Miami. Upon graduation from H.S., McLeod joined the U.S. Air Force and served four years (1956-1960) as a radio operator. He was stationed in the U.S. and Japan and served in communications.

Ronald McLeod, 21, married Donna McDowell, 20, of Miami on Dec. 26, 1959, while home on leave from the Air Force. He met Donna at her 16th birthday party when both were still in high school. Ronnie became a Catholic since that was his wife's religion.

Upon discharge from the Air Force, Ronald McLeod, 30, joined the Miami Police Department on Sept. 6, 1960. He became one of 29 members of the M.P.D.'s 45th Recruit Class (pictured on the 3rd floor of the M.P.D.) and graduated from the Police Academy on Dec. 23, 1960. At the time of his death he was a 9-year veteran. Most of his tenure was spent in Traffic and Radio Patrol--Motorcycle. His last supervisor in "motors" was Kenneth Harms, who later became Chief of Police. McLeod was a member of the PBA and the F.O.P.'s Walter E. Headley Lodge No. 20. Officer McLeod's first assignment was to a "3-wheeler" writing parking tickets. After three years Officer McLeod was transferred to the motorcycle squad. As a motorcycle officer, he still was often required to write traffic tickets. Numerous letters in his personnel file testified to his ability to give traffic tickets without provoking resentment from the violator.

Charles Whited, the longtime Miami Herald columnist, was ticketed by McLeod five days before the 1969 murder, and wrote that McLeod was polite and made a point of explaining that the traffic rule Whited had violated had led to a number of accidents. WTVJ (Channel 4) news anchor Ralph Renick editorialized on May 8, 1969 (after McLeod's death): By coincidence, I had occasion to be in Officer McLeod's company last month when he served as motorcycle escort to Jackie Gleason's car enroute to the Orange Bowl Youth for Decency Rally. He epitomized everything you like to see in a policeman. As you know, Ronald McLeod, age thirty, handsome and friendly, never returned home. He was murdered while responding to a call to apprehend a fleeing bandit. There is little left to say now about McLeod--words do him little good. But his loss should remind us that it is the men with the badge who stand between us and total lawlessness.

Ronnie's brother, Harold, recalled that Ronnie first became interested in police work when, at 16, he received a traffic ticket for an illegal turn from a Miami motorcycle officer and was impressed by how polite the officer was. Perhaps he determined at that point to become a police officer himself and to emulate that officer?

Survived by:
Donna F. McLeod - Wife

and three children, David Keith, 8, Michael Dean, 7, and Rhonda Gail, 6.

Fatal Incident Summary
Offender: James (Gabby) Gavin
  
Location: FL   USA   Wed. May. 07, 1969
Summary: Ronald McLeod, 30, a 9 year veteran of the Miami Police Department, became the 24th Miami officer killed in the line of duty when he was shot and killed by a fleeing armed robber on May 7, 1969. His killer had escaped from prison only three days earlier and---on three other occasions---attempted to kill police officers. He was sentenced to life in prison.

At 5:20AM ("Just before dusk") on Wednesday, May 7, 1969, a call went out over the Miami police radio that an armed holdup was in progress at a bar near the corner of N. Miami Ave. and N.W. 11th St. Motorcycle officer McLeod was on duty and responded to the radio alert.

The armed robbery in progress call resulted from two robberies of two bars in a one block area. The first robbery was at the Columbia Bar and Grill at 1050 N. Miami Ave. The bartender reported that an armed black man entered the bar through a side door and ordered all 12 customers to put their wallets on the bar. The bandit then herded the entire group into a small men's room and fled with about $300.

The robber then walked to Willie's Bar and Restaurant at N.W. 11th St. and N. Miami Ave. and proceeded to rob the second bar in the same manner. The robber was fleeing the second robbery scene on foot when officer McLeod heard the radio call and came racing up on his motorcycle.

Witnesses pointed out the direction (west on 13th St.) the fleeing robber had taken and McLeod began his motorcycle pursuit. McLeod was told that the holdup man was a black male wearing broken sunglasses and had a brown cloth money bag stuffed into his waistband. Lt. Jim Reese reported to the Miami Herald that: McLeod had his flasher light and siren going and as he wheeled his motor around the corner in pursuit.....the patrolman sighted the suspect who had stopped and was waiting with his long-barreled, chrome-plated revolver drawn. (The robber) stood on a street corner and waited for the pursuing officer to skid around the intersection of N. Miami Court and N.W. 13th St.....he then ran toward the motorcycle as McLeod fought to halt his machine and fired almost within arm's length. (Miami Herald, 581969) McLeod was shot once at close range in the right cheek with the bullet lodging in his brain. The unconscious and mortally wounded officer fell off his motorcycle and was found lying (with his gun holstered) under his motorcycle in a pool of blood about 75 feet north of the intersection. McLeod was rushed to the emergency ward of Jackson Memorial Hospital arriving at 5:45PM in a comatose state. He was "placed on controlled ventilation on a Bird Respirator. Skull X-Rays revealed a bullet lying in the mid post fossa on the left. No surgery was performed."

McLeod's wife, Donna, 27, was rushed to Jackson to be beside her critically injured husband. Before she left for the hospital she told the children that their father was gravely wounded and they "got down and prayed together." A Catholic priest administered the last rites of the church to the officer shortly after 10:00PM. McLeod died just before noon on Thursday, March 8, 18 hours after being shot. He never regained consciousness.

In a 1981 Miami News series of articles on handguns, Miami homicide detective Mike Gonzalez said that the handgun used by Gavin was the "cheapest, worst gun ever used" in a Miami murder. Gonzalez said: It was an old breaktop Owls Head revolver, a piece of junk so wobbly that Gavin had to hold it together with two hands to shoot....(later when Gavin) was caught in Memphis, Tenn., (he was) still in possession of the murder weapon.... In the 1950s and 60s....the majority of holdups and homicides were committed with just such cheap handguns. They were carried by downtown Miami pawnshops and displayed in the windows beside the binoculars and cameras. (Miami News, 951981)

Disposition: Gavin's jury trial for Officer McLeod's murder was rescheduled for April 26, 1971, but he again pled guilty to first degree murder on April 20 in return for State Attorney Gerstein's promise that he "would not oppose" a life sentence. However, Gerstein also told Judge Christie that he "did not recommend mercy for 'cop killers'." Judge Christie sentenced Gavin to two consecutive life terms in prison and a concurrent 20 year term. Judge Christie ordered that the life sentence for McLeod's murder be consecutive to the earlier life sentence for robbery. In 1971 there was no 25-year minimum mandatory term before eligibility for parole on life sentences for first degree murder and the average time served on a life sentence was 13 years.

Source: Book       Excerpted in part or in whole from Dr. Wilbanks book-

FORGOTTEN HEROES: POLICE OFFICERS KILLED IN DADE COUNTY, FL, 1895-1995

by William Wilbanks

Louisville: Turner Publications

1996

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