Gunman James Hoskins Held WCPO-TV Hostage 35 Years Ago
On this day in TV Kiese history… Over-the-Rhine resident James Hoskins, armed with five guns and 600 rounds of ammunition, held nine WCPO-TV employees hostage inside the station at 500 Central Avenue downtown on Oct. 15, 1980.
Hoskins, 41, gained entry after approaching reporter Elaine Green and photographer John Ehrhart with a semi-automatic rifle in the parking lot about 2 a.m., as they returned from working on a story.
Once inside, he wanted to make a statement on live television. Green instead offered to videotape him. Her 14-minute interview at gunpoint (see a clip below) won a prestigious George Foster Peabody Award.
Hoskins shocked them during the interview when he confessed to murdering Melanie Finlay, 30, in their 12th Street apartment earlier that night. “I blew my girlfriend away tonight. It’s over for me… I killed her,” Hoskins said while waving the rifle.
“We had planned to do this together, and I went berserk. She’s dead.”
After 90 minutes, he released all the hostages unharmed.
“Give me a place where the police can come and get me. We’re going to shoot it out, and you people can leave,” he said.
Channel 9 viewers awoke that morning to evening anchorman Al Schottelkotte reporting from the parking lot via a mobile TV truck owned by Dayton’s WHIO-TV, a fellow CBS affiliate then.
At 1:45 p.m., nearly 12 hours later, police finally entered the station and found Hoskins dead on the newsroom floor from a self-inflicted gunshot.
Green left Channel 9 in 1983 to open a local production company called Video Features, which produced Schottelkotte’s “Spotlight Reports.” She married Schottelkotte in 1988. He died in 1996. The WCPO-TV studios, across from the Cincinnati Fire Department headquarters, were torn down in 2004 for the convention center expansion.
Tom McKee, still a Channel 9 reporter, and Ehrhart have credited Green’s calm professionalism with saving their lives that night. Green told me in 2005, for a 25th anniversary story in the Enquirer:
“We all survived because nobody did anything stupid. Everybody stayed calm and nobody panicked… I still get chills. It’s a terrifying thing. You don’t know what you’re going to say or do that might set him off.”