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Double Murder Rocks Downtown Columbus

Double Murder Rocks Downtown Columbus

Greg Merchant and Austin Shepherd remove Caudill’s body from the scene.

Columbus Police responded to a double shooting around 12:30 am Wednesday at The Elbow Room bar on 418 2nd Ave. N. A gunman later identified as 43 yr. old Daniel Paul Copple of Lucerne Valley, Ca. opened fire on two patrons of the pub, killing one man instantly.  The second victim succumbed to his wounds early Wednesday morning at BMH-GT.

Copple

Copple, a worker at the Severstal plant in Lowndes County, had been pursued by Columbus Police throughout the night in connection with several incidents around town. At approximately 9:15pm, police responded to the lobby bar area of the Holiday Inn at 1200 Hwy. 45 North for a disturbance call. A suspect matching Copple’s description left shortly before police arrived, in a white Ford F-150. Witnesses say the man was acting erratically at the bar, threatening patrons before “peeling out” of the parking lot.
Around 11:40 pm, police rushed to the scene of a pedestrian hit-and-run on the corner of 8th St. N. and 3rd Ave. N.  A caller had told E-911 operators that a white pick-up truck with California plates had hit a pedestrian and quickly left the scene. It is believed that the driver intentionally drove towards the victim, later identified as Carl Edward Allen, possibly trying to strike him twice. Police arrived to find the intersection empty, but followed the witnesses tip to The Gilmer Inn on 321 Main St. (Carl Allen was transported from a home on1204 7th St. S. about 45 minutes later to BMH-GT. Allen had minor scrapes and bruises, but did lose a tooth in the collision-CK)

The blood-smeared truck.

Lowndes County Lt. Clint Sims and Dpty. Eric Granderson joined Columbus Police Officer Lamar Peacock and Auxiliary Officer Eric Lewis at the Gilmer and discovered Copple’s 1997 Ford –F-150 in the rear parking lot, with blood splatters consistent with a collision on the front driver’s side quarter panel. The officers then proceeded to check a room that was believed to be registered to Copple on the second floor of the motel. As they knocked on the door to room 237, a call came over the radio that shots had been fired a block away at The Elbow Room. [It seems likely Copple saw the officers pull up to his truck and fled the Gilmer via the east exit, running across 4th St. North and into the alley behind the Trotter Center.  If  Copple took that route, as he emerged from under the Trotter skyway the first door to his right would have been The Elbow Room- CK]

The .40 caliber gun used in the shooting.

Sources that asked to remain anonymous told the Packet that Copple ran into the bar and was panicked, acting somewhat crazed. Inside the bar were Mark Caudill, James Bennet Mann (Bennet), Mike Ward and Al Comer. Caudill’s  fiancée Sonja Webb was rumored to have been at the bar near the time of the shooting- but was not seen nearby afterwards. Caudill had a Smith and Wesson .40 caliber pistol allegedly in a holster on his hip, and when Copple began to “act up”, Caudill drew his weapon. Comer is believed to have exited as soon as Copple began to cause trouble, moments before the gun was pulled out. [Caudill was allegedly playfully “mocked” earlier that evening about carrying a pistol out in public like he was. Although the gun is believed to be registered to Caudill, I’ve been told by several people it is against the law to carry a pistol into a bar-CK]

Copple spent much of his time mocking the police on scene.

Copple then, according to sources, lunged for Caudill’s gun. The two men struggled for the piece for some 30 seconds, each pressing the other against the front corner of the bar nearest the front door. [The Elbow Room has two main sections: as you walk in the front door, you would find a long bar going north to south with a restroom in the rear and another room directly to your right, with a pool table and a small stage-Ed]
Bennet stepped in just as Copple managed to wrestle the pistol away from Caudill, and attempted to recover the gun. Copple wrestled the gun free and shot Bennet once in his chest, arm and finally his head. Caudill was shot twice in his torso and once in his head as well. Mann collapsed on top of Caudhill as they fell to the ground in a large pool of blood.
Mike Ward had been in the restroom area of the bar when the commotion started, and had made his way behind the bar and through a doorway to the pool room after the shootings. Copple then walked towards Ward and put the muzzle of the gun against Ward’s forehead and Ward pleaded for his life.   It is not known if Copple actually tried to shoot Ward too.  The six cartridges in the .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol had already been fired.  This type of pistol reportedly has a feature that does not allow the hammer to snap on an empty chamber after the last round is fired. [Six shots were apparently fired.  Police found six empty casings and five slugs.  It is thought that the sixth slug was still inside the body of one of the victims. CK]

Caudill in December, following an attempted mugging.

Former Packet editor Roger Larsen was dozing in a chair in his building on Lawyers Row when he heard an E-911 dispatcher say that a shooting had occurred at the Elbow Room.  The Elbow Room is only about 50 yards west of Larsen’s building, on the other side of 5th St. North.  Larsen was fully clothed and stepped outside to get his camera from his pickup, which was parked in front of his building.   When he approached his truck he saw a man dressed in black walking in the intersection of 2nd Ave. North & 5th St., near the Zachary’s Restaurant corner.  Larsen said that he suspected that the man was the shooter and became concerned with finding his pistol instead of his camera.  He thought he might have left the pistol in the pickup and quickly looked under some items on the seat but did not see it.  He was meanwhile watching the man in the intersection and now saw him begin to sprint toward him.  Larsen said he judged that he had time to walk back to his building and lock the door.  He pretended not to notice the man and walked quickly to his door and entered the building and locked the door behind him.  He went into the back room of the building and saw his pistol and heard a sound at his front door—the stranger apparently tried the knob and found the door locked.

Bennet is taken to BMH-GT. He succumbed to his injuries hours later.

Larsen said he was afraid to open the door because the stranger might be outside.  E-911 was reporting that the gunman was on 2nd Ave. North and Larsen called and said that the man had run toward his building.  The dispatcher told him that police had just taken the gunman into custody on 5th St. North.   Larsen hurried to his truck and got his camera and went around the corner onto 5th St. just as Officer Barry Goode was putting the gunman into a squad car (he missed the photo by seconds).
Goode had come onto the scene with Officers Kenny Brewer and Don Holifield.  Here’s how it developed:  Goode and Holifield were investigating the hit-and-run at 3rd Ave. North & 8th St.   They parked their squad cars near the intersection and followed a blood trail south on 8th St.  They were in the vicinity of Memorial Funeral Home when Brewer drove up.  At about the same time the shootings at the Elbow Room were announced by E-911.  Goode and Holifield were 100 yards from their vehicles so they jumped into the back seat of Brewer’s car and Brewer raced west on 2nd Ave. North toward the Elbow Room three blocks away (the block in front of the courthouse is one-way but they used that route).    Goode was riding on the right side in the back seat and kept the right door open with a foot (if the back doors of a squad car close they can only be opened from the outside).  When the three officers reached 3rd Ave. North & 5th St. they saw the suspect walking south in front of David Owen’s law office.  Brewer and Goode jumped out of the car with Holifield following Goode.   Brewer ordered the suspect to the ground and he got onto his knees and dropped his hands to his sides.  Goode told Brewer to “cover” him and approached the suspect from behind and handcuffed him without incident.  They found a .40 caliber pistol about 20 feet away in the street.

Austin Shepherd collects the handgun from the scene.

Brewer drove to the scene with his blue lights on but without a siren.  Larsen said that he thinks that when he went to his truck to get his camera the suspect probably saw Brewer’s blue lights three blocks to the east and decided to try to commandeer Larsen’s truck or follow Larsen into his building.
Goode placed Copple in the back of the squad car, and Copple immediately began to kick and struggle. The suspect managed to knock the rear driver’s side window off track, causing it to fall slightly. Officer’s then pulled Copple out of the cruiser far enough to put him in ankle shackles and removed his cowboy boots to prevent further damage. More than 25 members of Lowndes County law enforcement agencies converged on the area looking for clues and interviewing witnesses.
Copple was left in the rear of the car for nearly 30 minutes until CPD crime scene investigator Austin Shepherd arrived on scene to process evidence on his clothes. (Blood splatter) During his extended stay in the rear of the cruiser, Copple made sure to let the assembled group of law enforcement professionals his feelings towards them. Copple had the following to say:

Copple

“What do you expect me to do when a mutherf#*#er pulls a gun on me?”
“You cops want some rights, how ‘bout my right to kick your ass?”
“Your prerogative is bullsh#*t, my prerogative is for you to let me loose!”
“Line up, just line up, I’ll beat all you f#**ots to the ground, I’m an animal!”
Shepard processed the Walther .40 Caliber pistol and Copple was finally transported to Lowndes County Adult Detention Center. Upon arrival to LCADC, Copple continued to resist and threaten officers, telling jailors “uncuff me and I’ll f*#*ing end you. I’m a go#*$mn man. Nobody in here can handle me!!”
Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant and CSI Shepherd brought the body of Mark Caudill out around 3:45 am. Columbus Police investigators continued to process the crime scene until nearly 5:00 am Wednesday morning. James Bennet Mann was pronounced dead Wednesday morning around 10:30am.

Copple

Daniel Copple was in LCADC as of Thursday morning, but has not been formally charged. He will face a long list of possible charges, ranging from disorderly conduct and felony hit and run to capital murder charges. Sources close to the investigation suspect Copple was under the influence of narcotics, but would not speculate as to a specific drug as of yet. The Elbow Room, a downtown fixture for generations did not open Wednesday, some downtown residents expressed hope that this would not cause the bar to shut down completely.
——
[Some people who saw Copple in the news Wednesday thought the badge on his shirt may be some law enforcement insignia.  The logo was in fact that of Salty Dog Tavern. - RL]

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