End of Watch: The Murder of Officer Amos Cross

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Pensacola Police Department, Florida

End of Watch Friday, September 12, 1980

An excerpt from the book, “Some Gave All,” coming soon to this website and on Amazon.

The Gospel of St. Matthew records Jesus as saying, “If your eye is single, then your whole body will be full of light.” That described Amos Cross. He knew his job was to lead his family and serve his community, and that is what he did – no hidden agenda.

Amos Cross being sworn in as a Pensacola Police Officer. To his left is his wife, Margaret, and to his right is Officer Gary Cutler, who was with him on the night he died.

September 12, 1980:

B. J. and Vera Todd lived at 610 N “D” Street in Pensacola. Their son Peter lived there with them. But Peter began having behavior problems, which sometimes became violent. His relationship with his parents – especially with his father, became rocky.

Something that police departments and the courts often find themselves having to deal with are juveniles that get out of line. What is a police officer supposed to do with a 14-year-old boy that commits a burglary or a battery? They can’t put them in adult jail, and juvenile detention simply isn’t the answer either. How does that make them behave?

That is where Peter was. As a juvenile, he found himself in trouble more often every day. Multiple trips to the judge after repeated attempts at correction and rehabilitation caused frustration for the police, the court, and the parents.

The judge had had enough. With nowhere else to turn, the juvenile court waived Peter over to the adult system.

But he didn’t stop. The offenses became more and more serious. Anger seemed to be the cause. Finally, at age 17, Peter graduated to knifings.

Then, on Saturday, September 6, 1980, he committed an aggravated battery when he shot into a car with two people in it. Judge William Henderson let him sign himself out of jail on September 8. Amos Cross had four days to live.

Amos Cross knew Peter Todd well. He had been called to Peter’s home one evening when he and his father were arguing. He had spoken with him before and calmed him down several times. Amos had a calming effect. He was like that. So, on Friday, September 12, he wasn’t too worried when, at 7:00 PM, he was called to 610 N. “D” Street. After all, he had been there several times in the past few weeks.  In less than a minute, Officer Cross, 39, arrived at their home[1]. The home was located between Jackson and Gadsden Streets. On this evening, choir practice was in session at the church across the street, and 50 children were in attendance.

Amos expected to calm the family down once again, as he had done in the past. After all, that is why he took to this profession – to help people. Little did he know that the body of B. J. Todd, Peter’s father, lay lifeless in the back yard, killed with the same 12-gauge shotgun that Peter now had aimed at Amos. As the officer approached the front door, Peter fired the shotgun, striking Amos in the face and killing him instantly. In one moment, a caring officer with a loving wife and three sons who looked up to him – a man destined to become great – became a lifeless body, lying on the front porch of his killer.

Todd then fled on foot, jumping the fence, and heading for the children at the church, shotgun in hand. Officer Gary Cutler, who was a new officer, had arrived just as Amos was approaching the door. He witnessed the tragic event. As Todd fled, Cutler pursued, and caught up to him. The two exchanged gunfire. A bullet struck Todd in the head, causing him to drop the shotgun as he fell to the ground. Officer Cutler, who had also been shot and wounded, took Todd into custody. 

At first glance, the chapel on board Corry Station looks like a country church on a small rural road. Nestled among magnolias and southern pines, the small building was painted white with a small front portico and a flag in the front – fitting to hold a service honoring such a hero as Amos. Located two miles from Pensacola Bay and 5½ miles from the Florida-Alabama state line, the quiet chapel was usually a lone picturesque building. But on September 16, 1980, it was full of Amos’ family members as well as lawmen from across the southeast. Outside was a seemingly endless ribbon of marked patrol cars representing the love that these public servants have for each other. To display their respect, the officers had spent time meticulously ensuring that their uniforms were sharply creased, their gun and shoe leather shined to a gloss, and their badges & brass were proper and bright.

Officer Gary Cutler and others from the Pensacola Police Pall Bearers carry the casket of their fallen brother, Amos Cross. (courtesy of the Pensacola News Journal)

Inside, guarding the casket were members of the Pensacola Police Honor Guard. They were immaculately dressed in their Class A uniforms. Like statues, they solemnly stood as guardians over their fallen comrade.

When the service began, hundreds gathered to bid farewell to Pensacola’s hero. Well-known Pensacola News Journal reporter Bill Dingwall recorded the words of Navy Chaplain Lieutenant Julius Thomas: “Why do the good die young? Why take such an affable, humble, and quiet man such as Amos? During moments like this, there is always the eternal question as to why. I do not know why. I have not always claimed to know the will of God. Some others may; I do not.”

Margaret Cross with a portrait of Amos painted by Pensacola Police Captain Bob Cotita. The portrait hangs in the lobby of the Pensacola Police Headquarters.

Immediately the arguments began. “Peter is crazy.” “Peter doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions.” Peter’s home life is to blame.” And so, it went. Little was said in public – most was discussed in open court, making every pre-trial argument a front-page story in the news. On October 3, Pensacola News Journal reporter Karen Smith reported that Todd’s scheduled court hearing was cancelled. Judge William Rowley determined that Todd was too unstable to attend. Meanwhile, his attorney, Peter Mitchell, filed a motion to examine Todd and determine if he was competent to stand trial or insane at the time of the crime.

On February 18, 1981, Judge Edward Barfield responded to the conclusion that the doctors who examined Todd came to. He declared that Todd was legally incompetent to stand trial and that he was mentally retarded. So, Todd was committed to a state unit for the criminally insane. Off he went to spend the next six months in the mental hospital in Chattahoochee, Florida.

Amos’ family: Margaret, Victor, Wayne, Keith

After the six-month period of treatment, Todd was returned to Pensacola, where he was evaluated by more doctors. After they met with Todd, they testified that he was not competent to stand trial. Judge Barfield ordered that he be hospitalized and medicated. Again, he was sent to Chattahoochee for a stay – this time for 2 ½ years. When he was returned to court in Pensacola on December 13, 1983, he was declared by Judge Barfield to be competent to stand trial. Mr. Terrell and his team began preparations for the defense.

Everyone who has ever met Margaret Cross will agree – she is a classy woman. Not only is she intelligent, but she is elegant. She always considers others first and always has a kind word to say. But to have to wait three years, eleven months and eighteen days – 1448 days – for her husband’s killer to be brought to trial. Then, on August 6, 1984, it got underway.

Margaret with Pensacola Police K-9 “Cross,” named in honor of the fallen hero.

The trial started with selection of the jury. But just after it got started, Terrell stated that Todd wished to enter a plea. The trial process stopped, and the defense entered a plea of nolo contendre, or “no contest” to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder. Terrell had explained to Todd that, if the trial completed, there would be no option to enter a plea, and he might be found guilty and receive the death penalty. Todd decided to enter the plea. Judge Ben Gordon sentenced Todd to two life sentences for the murders and another 30 years for the attempted murder. He would not be eligible for release until at least 2037 when he was 76 years old. While that seems a long time, Amos would have been 92 years old in 2037 – enjoying his wife, kids, and grandchildren – had he not been killed. Instead, he died a hero in 1980. 

Officer Amos Cross


[1] The September 13, 1980, edition of the Pensacola News Journal contained several stories on the murder. Accessed April 20, 2021. https://www.newspapers.com/image/265364022/?terms=%22Peter%20Todd%22&match=1

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