In the Line of Duty

The county I’m in is pretty small, population-wise: about 4,200 people. (Geography-wise, it’s medium for the west: about 550 square miles.) As you might guess, there’s not much shopping in my county, so for groceries we pop into Montrose, which is a town of about 16,000, and is only 20 minutes away. (Montrose County has a population of around 34,000 in 2,240 square miles.) So we know the town pretty well.

Heavy Chatter

Saturday evening I became aware that “something” was happening in Montrose. I have “police” radios in my house for our county, but not for Montrose; that one is in my car. So I went to the garage and grabbed my portable and turned it on, but clearly the main action was over, so I had to wait until later to find out what happened.

I knew it was bad: two ambulances had been dispatched, county deputies were in to back up the police, and even one of our ambulances helped cover their calls. I resisted the urge to call our crew to find out details; I could wait.

Yep, It Was Bad.

I found out soon enough. A domestic violence call, at an address the police were quite familiar with, had suddenly turned sour. Officers had apparently been there for over an hour when the man of the house suddenly ran, and then shots rang out.

Three cops were hit, one fatally, and the homeowner was left dead too; it’s unclear so far whether he was killed by return fire, or if he shot himself. (Update: he shot himself.)

It’s the second time a Montrose cop has been killed. The previous time was in 1983, when three cops were shot, one fatally. Weird.

Small Town

Sgt. David Kinterknecht.

I know some of the sheriff’s deputies in Montrose County, but few (any?) of the city cops. Sgt. David Kinterknecht, who was born and raised here, was only 41.

He wanted to be a cop all of his life; like me, he started out as a police cadet. Unlike me, he stayed in the business. He had two daughters, aged 12 and 16.

Officers Rodney Ragsdale, 55, and Larry Witte, 23, who were both shotgunned in the legs, will survive.

Domestic violence calls are notoriously risky for cops, even in small towns, but they go in anyway and try to make peace.

Sometimes the people they’re trying to help don’t want peace. The homeowner in this case had been disfigured in a fire, and was reportedly depressed. Rather than seek help, he spread his misery to others. I’m sure he has a family too, and their memories of him will forever be tinged with tragedy and shame.

Had he thought about it, rather than let anger take him over, it could have been very different. Unfortunately for four families in a very small town, it went the wrong way.

20 Comments on “In the Line of Duty

  1. My thoughts are with the Kinterknecht family in their time of grief, and with the Witte and Ragsdale families as they cope with the long road back to health.

  2. a good man trying to do his job and return to his family. . . God bless him and may he rest in peace.

  3. I am very sorry for the Kinterknecht family…. and I am sorry for you. You have presented yourself as someone who takes this of incident to heart.

    I do feel it. Even though I didn’t know any of the people involved, I feel a kinship with others who reach out to help others during times of extreme need — and frankly a bit indignant when the person being helped hurts a responder who was there to help them. It could just as easily been on this side of the county line, and I could have been there. -rc

  4. Not to diminish this tragic event, but I just now noticed that the blog header is “[…] This is True — Weird News Online Since the Internet’s Dark Ages” — yet True is so much more than just another humorous weird news feed. (Compare True with Chuck Shepard’s News of the Weird and you’ll see what I mean. Both valuable in their own way, but very very different.)

    I know nothing of Chuck’s mission, so I can’t speak to it, but mine has always been much more than simple entertainment. I want to be entertaining so people read my work, but I mean for them to have something to think about when they’re done. -rc

  5. Having been with a volunteer fire department years ago, and my daughter with a sheriffs mounted posse at one time and kids in the military, I totally understand your kinship with these men and their situation. I hurt every time I hear of any of our people who serve the public even tho I don’t know them, because I know they are human like the citizens they serve and they have families like them too. God bless Sgt. Kinterknecht and his family and the whole department as well as the family of the domestic violence call. Something like that leaves everyone scarred and hurting. May they and you all find peace with this tragedy.

  6. In my first book on behavioral clues to alcoholism, Domestic Violence was near the top of the list. I wrote that a number of police officers confided they rarely if ever responded to a DV call in which alcoholism was not the main factor. I also cited a study of 150 abused women that found 85% of violent husbands had an alcohol or other-drug “problem” (code word for “alcoholism” or “drug addiction”).

    For every tragedy that occurs in the life of an addict, there are dozens if not hundreds of incidents for which close people or the law could have intervened, but didn’t.

    The perpetrator of this tragedy probably had the disease of alcohol or other-drug addiction. Some would respond of course, he’d been disfigured in a fire and would surely have been on pain meds. However, the National Council on Alcoholism found that “alcoholics are ten times more likely to die from fires than nonalcoholics.” We might extrapolate that 90% of injuries and deaths from fires are a result of alcoholic misbehaviors (smoking in bed, blowing up an Andy Gump, etc.). Therefore, the odds are he was an alcohol or other-drug addict long before his accident (particularly in view of the fact that alcoholics usually trigger their addiction during the first drinking episode, average age 13).

    Millions of non-addicts take addictive pain medications. Non-addicts don’t act badly as a result of use, while addicts do, sometimes horribly, some of the time. The odds are very high that Sgt. Kinterknecht and the officers who survived were victims of an addict, for whom there were plenty of opportunities for intervention.

  7. It takes a special sort of person to do the duties of those jobs day in and day for a living, yet they rarely get thanked for their work. Please pass along my condolences to Sgt. David Kinterknecht’s family and my best wishes for a speedy recovery to the other officers wounded in the incident.

  8. It is such a shame that the violence rose to that level. I admire those men and women that put themselves in danger to protect us… sometimes from our own stupidity or that of others.

  9. My condolences to Sgt Kinderknecht family. Like him, many serve providing security for us, our families and communities. For Montrose, the community is fortunate because the town people knew him and, hopefully, will honor his memory by behaving in less harmful ways… But, here in Oakland and many big cities, police officers are seldom on first name basis with people on the streets, many officers do not live in the communities they serve, and, last, many citizens see them as pariahs. This is a lesson the citizens of Montrose can teach us. Thank you Randy and your ilk for your service.

  10. I was a deputy sheriff in Mississippi County, Arkansas, an investigator with the US Air Force, and now am a 911 Operator for a military fire department. I have experienced domestic violence on all three departments. On the law enforcement side, we always sent a female officer with the responding units. It usually had a somewhat calming effect on both or all parties involved (many times the families live close together and others show up. They only way to calm that situation was to convince the injured party (man cut all the way to the bone on his lower arm, that he needed immediate attention and we would drive him to the hospital faster than waiting for an ambulance. It worked, the doctor sewed eight inches (32 stitches) and we took him directly to jail. He was so drunk he didn’t even know he was cut until the doc started stitching him up. With him out of the picture everybody else went home. He had been cut by a cousin who showed up just before we did. We took his knife and told him to go home. Had we taken him to jail too, it would have started again in the cells. We left up whether to press charges to the injured party, who started the whole thing in the first place. No one was kiiled but having been there I know it could have gone very wrong very fast. My condolences to the slain officer’s family, and get well soon to the other officers. There are indeed people who understand and will help if need be.

    Is there a fund for the family?

    Yes. The Colorado Fraternal Order of Police has established a memorial fund on behalf of Kinterknecht’s family, which includes his wife and two daughters. Donations may be made to the Colorado State Lodge FOP, Public Safety Awareness Foundation, Reference Montrose Sgt. David Kinterknecht, 2701 W. 84th Ave., Suite 211, Westminster, CO 80031. For further information call (303) 591-3842. -rc

  11. I’m not normally one for poetry and whatnot, but there’s one little piece by Laurence Binyon that’s always read on Remembrance Day here that seems to fit not just the soldiers it was intended for, but anyone who puts their duty above their life.

    “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
    We will remember them.”

    Soppy, perhaps, but it just always seems to spring to mind when I read things like this. It’s always sad when the forces of disorder take a good copper down.

  12. There was a domestic dispute right across the street last night–a new family moved in & I hadn’t even had a chance to go over to greet them yet–and the police were called. Luckily, most of the family members involved were trying to calm down the one person who was in the street, screaming obscenities and threats, and it ended with no violence. But it could have gone badly.

    It was only a few months ago that 3 Pittsburgh police officers were killed, answering a domestic call. All I can do is pray for the safety of those brave souls who have no idea what each shift will bring them.

  13. I feel so sad for the family of the fallen officer, plus his fellow officers. Just a few days ago in a town just north of me, a similar situation happened at a traffic stop, but with far less devastating results (the driver committed suicide).

    My prayers for the officer’s family, friends, and co-workers, as well as for the other injured officers and the family of the man who shot them.

  14. Sunday, 7/27/09, two Seminole County Oklahoma sheriff’s deputies were killed in a domestic. Yes, these situations are volatile. I’m praying for all families involved.

  15. After reading the article, I, of course, felt sorry for the families involved. Next, I realized that it is not just the immediate people mentioned in the article that have been affected by this tragic domestic situation, and not just thier families.

    I’ve known a couple people who have ended thier own lives.

    I decided to “trace” how many people have been effected by each situation. Of course there are various ways and degrees people are connected, so just focusing on an emotional connection, I counted well over 200 people, not together, but in each case!

    Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem that leaves so many, many people with emotional turmoil, among other issues.

    So looking back at your article, my heart goes out to all those who were left, whomever you may be.

  16. If you’ve been miffed with a police officer for giving you a traffic summons or some such thing, try to imagine yourself dutifully walking into a situation like this one. In fact it will be a good deal more chaotic and dangerous than your fantasy of what you will encounter. What’s more, the family awaiting you back home will live with the horror if things go wrong. Yet this is not an uncommon event in an officer’s normal tour of duty. God bless our peace officers; they are the only real line between us and so many dangers which could come our way. My heart goes out to these families. It sickens me any time I learn of another officer paying with his life so that the rest of us can sleep soundly and safely in our homes.

  17. I was a local deputy on probation, just 2 days before becoming regular deputy when on a call I was shot in the back, 3 times. I’ll never know who shot me. Yet, I pray for this person often. I lost my right lung as a result, I now work as a mechanic. I sometimes wonder if I would have been a good deputy. The 3 officers are in my prayers.

  18. From ’69 until ’72, I was the C.O. of an Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (“Bomb Disposal”) Detachment. At that time, it was only the larger cities that had police Bomb Squads (and none in my Area of Operations), so we got called on to respond to calls from Civil War Ordnance to suspected homemade bombs (or IEDs as they’re called today), as well as to teach classes to local, state and Federal law enforcement agencies on IED recognition and Bomb Scene Search & Investigation.

    More than once I had the experience of a seasoned LEO call us “heroes” for dealing with homemade bombs, and every time I’d say, “Officer (Sergeant/Lieutenant/Captain/Agent), a bomb is designed to do one thing – blow up and kill people. As long as we remember that and treat the device with respect, we’re in pretty good shape. And if we have to detonate the device in place rather than trying to disarm it or move it, the media doesn’t try to second-guess us…. Don’t call us heroes! You people in law enforcement are the real heroes! Bombs are predictable. People aren’t, and I wouldn’t have your job for all the rice in China!”

    My heart goes out to each and every law enforcement officer who lays down his or her life “To Protect and Defend,” and to their families.

  19. This may be just me, but it really bothers me when Officers of the Law are referred to as “cops.” This seems to lack the respect they have earned and deserve. To me, it feels just one step above “pigs.” Just my opinion.

    You might think so, and no one is asking you to use the term, but you should ask your local cop — er, Peace Officer — what s/he thinks. I’ve never met one that was bothered by it, but virtually all use it and find it fine. That, I think, is the real test. And remember: I used to be one. -rc

  20. I believe the term Cops, comes from Copper. The police officers had copper buttons on their uniforms. Thus, they were called coppers, which was shortened to cops. I don’t believe it was ever a derogatory name.

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