December 09, 2007
Time moves on, but the memory remains.
Eight years ago on this date started out as a rather typical day, I went to school, I came home, I was preparing for a choir concert that night when my mom called home from work to relay a rather disturbing message. A police officer had been shot and the roads for her to get home were blocked while they were searching for his killer(s).
I don't know what it was that day, but somehow I knew who had been shot. Two hours later there was another phone call, and my father came in to tell me the tragic news. Tenny Gatewood Jr, a tribal police officer, had just died of gunshot wounds.
He had been investigating a burglary of a store over on one of the fishing lakes, someone had broken in and stolen some beer. He tracked down the suspects, a father and son, and proceeded to attempt to place them under arrest. There was a struggle between the father and Tenny, as Tenny gained the upper hand, the father called to his son for help, the son proceeded to get involved, he pulled Tenny's service revolver and shot Tenny. A life, tragically taken because some people did not want to pay for their desires or the consequences of their actions.
That night and the next few days were brutal for me and for my mother. Tenny had been a friend of hers since she always saw him when he would bring people in who needed treatment (she's an ER nurse). I had dated his daughter off and on for a few years so I knew him and his family quite well. So to know that a friend of ours had died such a senseless death just made it that much worse.
The rest of his family were taken to a safe place for their own protection, even after the killers were caught the next day. It was a small community in the area where he worked and lived, and things could have gotten ugly, especially if someone took it on themselves to get revenge either for Tenny's death, or for the two men now in jail.
I attended his funeral a week later; it was hard to sit through, especially at the end, watching as police officers from all over the state came up to salute the coffin. There was no reason for him to die, he was one of the nicest and kindest men. I probably should have been afraid to date his daughter since her dad was a cop and he would have protected her if I had ever done anything to hurt her, but he knew he didn't have anything to worry about when she was with me. I respected him, and he respected me in turn.
It's hard to believe it's been eight years since all of this happened. I think about it now and it still hurts to remember. I went to the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial today in DC. It's a very raw feeling to know that you're going there to find the name of someone you know on that wall. No one should ever have to go searching for the name of a family member or friend that is inscribed on a memorial. Unfortunately that is not reality. It was surreal to tape the note I left today, and then notice people stop to read it.
If it still hurts for me to think about the fact that this was the day he died, I can only imagine what his wife, his daughters, and his son are feeling. I haven't heard from them for a few years, but I hope that wherever they are, they are safe, and they are happy in their lives, even if today is not a happy day for them.