Lawmaker: Rename portion of I-71 after two Cincinnati officers killed in line of duty

A state lawmaker introduced legislation Friday designating a portion of Interstate 71 in...
A state lawmaker introduced legislation Friday designating a portion of Interstate 71 in Hamilton County after two Cincinnati police officers who died in the line of duty 50 years ago, Officers Dennis Bennington (left) and Robert Seiffert (right).(Greater Cincinnati Police Museum)
Updated: Mar. 5, 2021 at 9:38 AM EST
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A state lawmaker introduced legislation Friday to rename a portion of Interstate 71 in Hamilton County in memory of two Cincinnati police officers gunned down in the line of duty 42 years ago.

State Rep. Cindy Abrams says House Bill 180 would rename that stretch of interstate the “Officers Dennis Bennington and Robert Seiffert Memorial Highway.”

Officers Bennington, 27, and Seiffert, 31, both served the Cincinnati Police Department for over eight years.

They made the ultimate sacrifice to protect and serve the city during a March 6, 1979, traffic stop as they tried to apprehend a street robbery suspect on Oak Street near May Street, according to Abrams and an account of the incident on the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum’s website.

“A memorial highway is a simple but meaningful way to pay tribute to these heroes who dedicated their lives to the city and citizens of Cincinnati,” Abrams, a former Cincinnati police officer, said.

“It will serve as a reminder to honor and appreciate the men and women in law enforcement who protect our safety every day.”

The highway designation would be between mile markers 1 and 3 in the downtown Cincinnati area on I-71 North and South, near the site of their deaths.

Officer Bennington’s daughter, Tina Bennington Sansone, reached out to Abrams with the idea for a memorial highway.

“I have always admired the bravery and courage of my father to fight for justice, protect and stand up for those you do not know, and offer your life for their well-being,” his daughter said.

“Allowing my father and Officer Seiffert to have recognition for their heroic self-sacrifice, bravery and courage would be such an honor for our family, friends, coworkers and all those who have lived all these years without these two great men.”

The bill awaits referral to a House committee.

The police museum website has a detailed account of the traffic stop that led to the officers’ slayings:

Officers Bennington and Seiffert were members of CPD’s Robbery Task Force. In December 1978, they sought a street robbery suspect named Gregory Daniels, who had been arrested on a multitude of prior felony offenses.

Daniels, however, eluded authorities - but both officers never forgot, the museum’s website says.

Months later, on March 6, 1979, at 1 a.m., Officer Seiffert saw a car driven by a man he believed was Daniels. On a car-to-car radio channel, he contacted Officer Bennington, according to the museum:

Seiffert: Do you know this guy on sight?

Bennington: Yeah.

Seiffert: I’m going to stop him at Oak and May Streets.

Bennington: Okay, I’ll be there in a second.

Police surmise that Officer Seiffert pulled Daniels, over on westbound Oak Street west of May Street. Both Daniels and Officer Seiffert got out of their vehicles and Officer Seiffert asked for his identification.

Daniels said it was in the car and reached into it just as Officer Bennington arrived eastbound on Oak Street, stopped directly across the street from the car, and got out of his car shortly after 1 a.m.

The suspect shot Officer Bennington in the chest and then fired over his shoulder at Officer Seiffert, who dove behind Daniels’ car to try to get out of the way but was still struck in the head. Officer Seiffert’s head also hit the curb, breaking his neck.

Though mortally wounded, Officer Bennington got up and drew his revolver, but Daniels shot him again, this time in the shoulder.

As Daniels pulled away, Officer Bennington fired several shots, striking Daniels in the head and killing him instantly.

With Daniels’ lifeless foot on the accelerator, the car sped into a steel utility pole near Reading Road.

A passenger, Sharon Johnson, was pinned in the car and suffered wrist and hand injuries and a slight wound to her head from a bullet fragment.

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