My first assignment after I graduated from the Missouri State Highway Patrol Academy was Tarkio. I arrived there on January 1, 1969, and my training officer was Corporal F.C. Kling, who was stationed in Tarkio for many years. Fred, or Mike Kling as some knew him, was not only my mentor, but became a lifelong friend. He passed away April 3 of this year after giving numerous years of service to Atchison, Holt, Nodaway, and Andrew counties as a law enforcement officer. His son, Mark, resides in Tarkio.
I have fond memories of Tarkio. In fact, I have many friends that I made back then that still live in the Tarkio and Rock Port area. Tarkio was hopping back then. Tarkio College was in its heyday. The Interstate had not opened and U.S. 59 carried all that traffic and it went right through the heart of town. I am fairly certain I met up with the singers Brewer and Shipley one night in the summer of 1969 on U.S. 59 north of Tarkio. They were on a motorcycle going a little too fast. I didn’t really know who they were at the time, not until they came out with the album “Tarkio Road.” I just thought at the time that they were a couple of hippies. Although I was only stationed in Tarkio for three years, it was a great place to start my career. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to live and serve in your community.
(Mike Hooker is Retired from the Missouri State Highway Patrol. He was the Zone Commander of Zone 4, Grundy and Mercer County for nearly 15 years)
I am forwarding this article. I wrote this and it was printed this Memorial Day in the Trenton Republican Times:
“WHILE STANDING IN THE GAP”
I gave a speech at the Law Enforcement Memorial that was held on 5-18-13 at the Law Enforcement complex in Trenton, Missouri, to honor officers who had been killed in the line of duty; several I personally knew and worked with. I was asked if I had a copy of that speech but I didn’t since I gave that speech without notes. The following is approximately what was contained in that speech with a few additions that have been made because during the course of the speech I left out a few things I had intended to say.
On the evening of September 11, 1977, when I was stationed in Bethany, Missouri, I met with Daviess County Sheriff Leland Houghton in Gilman City, Missouri. Harrison County Deputy Sheriff Leon Riggs and I had traveled to Gilman City to investigate a burglary that had happened on the Daviess and Harrison County line. I remember it was late in the evening when we finished and Sheriff Houghton headed back to Gallatin, Missouri. In less than one hour I was notified that Sheriff Houghton had been shot and killed at a residence in Lake Viking. Sheriff Houghton was well respected as a law enforcement officer. In fact, his son, Tom, was later elected Sheriff of Daviess County and served for four terms.
I first met Mark Griffin in the summer of 1979 when I was promoted to Corporal and transferred from Bethany to Trenton. Mark was a young man who was working as a deputy for the Grundy County Sheriff’s Department. Mark had only been working for a few months, but he was already developing into a very good deputy. Mark and I soon became fast friends. We not only worked together, but we spent a lot of time together when we were off duty. I remember that in the spring of 1980, Mark decided to get a slow pitch softball team together to compete in the slow pitch league in Trenton. At the time, slow pitch softball was very popular in Trenton with around 12 teams in the league. Mark was going to form the team and be its manager. I noticed that Mark already had a recipe for disaster when he told me he was going to form the team using only people who worked in Law Enforcement. I, knowing that most of those people worked the nightshift, had my doubts. Then he told me the sponsor for the team would be the local bowling alley. Now I really had doubts about this new team. I watched as Mark struggled to get enough players together for a game. The players never had time to practice nor did the team have the same players during any game that was played. As hard as Mark tried the team was not very good and it lost a lot more games than it won, but we sure had fun. I would tell Mark we would have done better at bowling. He would just laugh and say we will get them next year. Unfortunately, there would be no next year for Mark. He was shot and killed only a few hundred feet from where we are now standing in January of 1981. It was a senseless tragedy. We lost a fine young man and a very good officer that day. His mother, Opal, and father, Wayne Griffin, are here tonight.
I don’t want them to think they have grieved alone all these years because many members of this community have been grieving right along with them. I used to go by the house where Mark was killed nearly everyday and I had a bad feeling each time. That house stood for almost 30 years after that day in 1981 having only recently being torn down. As far as I was concerned, it could have been torn down the next day. There is just some grass and trees where the house once stood. Now sometimes when I pass that location I don’t think about what happened there. I like it better that way! They named a ball field here in Trenton in Mark’s honor, not because he was a great ball player, but because he was so well liked and highly respected in the community. Mark was only 23 years old.
Trooper Henry C. (Hank) Bruns was promoted to Corporal and transferred to Trenton in the summer of 1985. I had just been promoted to Zone Sergeant here when Sgt. Chet Baker retired. I had known Hank and worked with him for several years by then. Hank was the hardest working Officer I ever knew. I was working one day near Albany, Missouri, when I received a call to work a traffic accident near King City, Missouri. Hank was the very first Highway Patrol Officer that was stationed in King City. King City was in our zone, but Hank was assigned to work out of a St. Joseph, Missouri, Zone. It took me about 25 minutes to arrive and during that time I heard Hank sign on the air with Troop H radio. I looked at my schedule and noticed Hank was on vacation. When I arrived, Hank had his patrol car at the scene, but he was not in uniform. He was taking the accident report down. I told him I would finish the report and handle all the paper work, but he said no, that he would do the paper work. I told him I knew he was on vacation and again tried to get him to let me finish up the report. Hank just said no, his wife was working, the kids were in school, and he needed something to do. In fact, Hank would never have liked the idea of overtime because he didn’t want anyone telling him to go home when he was working. One day not too long after Hank was assigned here, Trooper Greg Overfielt, the officer that replaced Hank in King City, asked me what I knew about Hank. I asked him why he was asking me. He said an official at the bank in King City had called him and wanted to know when he wanted them to install a bank alarm in his house. Greg asked them why would he want them to do that. The official stated because Trooper Bruns had them install one in his house. To this day I have never heard of another officer having the local bank alarm installed in their house. That’s just the way Hank was. Hank had become nearly a legend in King City for his work ethic in the 14 years he worked there. I had worked the night shift before I received the call early one cold February morning in 1987. It was the Troop H dispatcher calling to let me know that I had two officers from my Zone involved in a serious traffic accident on a ice covered highway east of St. Joseph. One was injured and the other officer, Cpl. Hank Bruns, had just been pronounced dead upon arrival at Heartland Hospital. I was told that Hank’s children were at home in Trenton, but his wife was somewhere in the St. Joseph area. They were trying to locate her. I was asked to go to Hank’s residence to make the death notification to his children and bring them by Patrol car to St. Joseph. I had watched Hank and Judy’s children grow up and this was not going to be easy. I had made several death notifications by then during my career and I made several after that day, but none was harder. I had learned from experience that it was best to get a little support when making a notification when you had time. I called my Minister Larry Lineville. I also called Nancy Slonecker because I knew she was good friends of the family. Nancy brought along her daughter, Angie, who was a friend of Amy, Hank’s daughter. Derrick was about 18, I believe, and Amy was around 16. I am not sure of their exact age, but I remember that all 6 members assigned to this Zone attended Amy’s high school graduation in uniform the next year because her father was unable to attend. Together, we made the death notification the best we could and I was relieved to learn that Judy had been located and was at the hospital before we arrived. That was a long day as I didn’t arrive back home until after 3 a.m. the next day. All these years I have visited with Nancy several times, but we had never spoken about that day until a year ago. On that occasion Nancy asked me if I remembered the day Hank died. I just answered by saying I could never forget that day. She said when she returned home that evening from the hospital in St. Joseph, she threw all the clothes she had been wearing that day away because she felt so bad she didn’t ever want to wear them again. I guess I didn’t realize what a burden I had placed on her that day in trying to ease some of my own. They named a stretch of highway in honor of Hank Bruns near King City because he was so well liked and respected. Hank was only 41 years old.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the loss of another friend, Sgt. Robert G. Kimberling, in October of 1999 on I-29 near St. Joseph, Missouri. Bob, as we knew him, grew up just a few miles from here in Jamesport, Missouri. During his youth he spent a lot of time in and around Trenton. His wife, Kelly, even worked in Trenton for several years. Bob had a reputation among his peers as being an outstanding officer for the Missouri State Highway Patrol. That October day, Bob stopped a car who’s driver had left the Farris Truck Stop south of St. Joseph without paying for $24.69 worth of gas. Bob was killed during a gun battle that resulted from that stop. On occasion, I used to see Bob’s mother here in Trenton since she lived in Jamesport. She was such a nice lady and I couldn’t help but feel sad knowing she had lost her only son in such a tragic way. They named a few miles of I-29 in his honor and placed a marker at the location where he was killed. The new gym at Jamesport High School was also named after him. He left behind a wife and two daughters ages 11 and 12. He was only 43 years old.
I have just told you about some of the officers that I was acquainted with who were killed during my 32 year career. Just the ones who worked this area. There were more. Now some of you may have shared one or more of these bad days with me. But if you haven’t then it is my hope and wish that you never have a day like I have been talking about during your career. In closing, I want to say that all my days on the job were not bad days. In fact, there were many more good days than bad and I had a lot of fun along the way. It was a great experience and I made many lifelong friends. I want to thank all the officers here tonight for their dedication and service to the public. I think Tim Munday said it best tonight. Tim is a Trenton Police Officer and also serves as a Minister. Tim said in his speech, “You stand in the gap between good and evil.” Even though you sometimes don’t receive the respect that you deserve. Without the men and women who serve as police officers our society would constantly be in chaos. You are the true heroes along with firefighters, ambulance crews, citizens who step forward when needed, and soldiers who fight for our freedom. You truly do “Stand in the gap between good and evil.”
June 15, 2016