Fallen Officers Memorial adding Chapel Hill officer’s name
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., will be adding the name of a Chapel Hill police officer who was murdered in 1969.
Chapel Hill Police Detective Theodore Roosevelt Cole Jr. died in 1969 at his home in Chapel Hill when a man he had arrested many times came to his house and shot and killed him.
Everything appeared to be going great for Cole just before he was killed. It was June 4, 1969, and he was being promoted from patrol officer to detective and it was his anniversary, according to Orange County Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass, who was sergeant of detectives for the Chapel Hill Police Department in 1969.
Pendergrass trained Cole when he became a patrol officer and they spent many nights riding in a patrol car together in Chapel Hill. About six months after Pendergrass was transferred to investigations, he asked then Chief William Blake if he would transfer Cole to investigations, Pendergrass said.
Cole was personable, got along with everyone, had a sharp mind and a good memory, Pendergrass said.
“He was just a good all-around law enforcement officer,” Pendergrass said. “That’s why I wanted him to come work with me.”
Cole asked Pendergrass if he could take the day off for his wedding anniversary, and Pendergrass told him sure. Cole was scheduled to start work as a detective the next day.
“He was working in his front yard [on Apple Street] at approximately 4:50 p.m. when a man named Amos Baldwin pulled up and got out of his car with a handgun and a shotgun in his hands,” according to an article in the June 2012 CHPD Newsletter. “Before Officer Cole could react, Baldwin shot him once.
“Officer Cole fell, at which point Baldwin stood over him, and again, fired a shot,” the newsletter said. “Officer Cole’s wife screamed from the doorway as Baldwin got into his car and drove away.”
Pendergrass remembers that Cole’s wife had just come to the door to tell him it was time to come in and get cleaned up since they were going out to celebrate their anniversary that evening.
Pendergrass said he was in District Court that afternoon when someone came rushing in and told everyone that Cole had been shot.
“Of course we all went out and headed out to where Ted lived,” Pendergrass said. “We got word on this individual who shot him and we started working it. We set up a road block, and he came through the road block. We were able to arrest him and charge him with murder.”
Cole had arrested Baldwin a number of times and had just recently charged him with a traffic offense.
“[Baldwin] just got to drinking that day and decided he was going to get his revenge on Ted,” Pendergrass said.
Baldwin was found guilty of first degree murder and remained in prison until he was paroled in the late 1980s or early 1990s.
In May, Cole’s name will be added to the National Fallen Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. Representatives of the Chapel Hill Police Honor Guard will attend the service to participate in the ceremony.
“He was an outstanding young man,” Pendergrass said. “There’s no telling what he would have been today if he had stayed in law enforcement.”