911 and Buffalo County Sheriff's Office, December 1979
It turns out that I’d never experienced a Christmas before
or since where I felt so cold and alone…
1979, I’d been working at the Kearney 911 Communications Center
for a few months. Since I was the lowest on the seniority list,
I anticipated, without objection, that I would be working over the
Christmas Holiday. I was scheduled to work the 6:00 PM to 2:00 AM
shift on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
shift as expected was predictably slow and uneventful on Christmas
Eve. I had just turned 21 earlier during the month, and this was
the first time in my life that I would be away from my family over
Christmas. I really didn’t want to go home to an empty house
after my shift ended, so in order to spend some time with friends,
went down to the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office where Rinda,
(later my work partner at GIEC,) was working the radio and Chuck,
whom I’d known since I was a sophomore in high school was
working at the jail. It wasn’t a big holiday party, but it
was nice conversation while we listened to music, ate cookies, and
drank punch. It was better than being alone on Christmas Eve!
calls received were few and far between. They consisted of requests
for weather and road conditions, questions about office hours and
the holiday schedule for the county, and co-workers and other law
enforcement types wishing us a Merry Christmas. Around 4:00 AM the
phone rang. I distinctly recalled saying, “I’ll bet
that’s nothing!” as Rinda answered the phone…
Rinda’s posture changed, and she started snapping her fingers
and pointed to the other phone, indicating she wanted me to pick
up the line! The female caller on the phone said, “Please
send a deputy out to our farm right away… Someone’s
breaking into our house!”
background, you could hear the steady THUD… THUD… THUD…
as the intruders where attempting to break the door down. The rural
areas did not have street addresses in those days, and locations
were typically described as x miles north or south, and x miles
east or west from a given landmark at the farm with whatever color
house. Rinda was trying to get directions, but all the frightened
caller could provide was that they were northeast of the Kearney
Airport… Rinda dispatched the only County Officer on duty,
Deputy 9095, Fred Best toward the general vicinity, and I alerted
the Kearney Police Department that while details were still being
collected, the Sheriff’s Office may need assistance regarding
a burglary / home invasion, in progress.
the phone we hear, THUD… THUD… CRASH!
woman shouts, “OH MY GOD!” and the phone drops!
a male voice shouting in the background. “Get Back! I said
BANG! Followed by silence….
woman picks up the phone… “We need an ambulance. My
husband shot him. I think he’s dead!”
recent development is broadcast on all relevant channels, but we
still are not clear on where this farm is at. With the exception
of a common last name, all we know is it’s somewhere beyond
the airport! I ask the woman if she can provide us with the name
and telephone number of their nearest neighbor. She does, and while
Rinda stays on the phone with the caller, I get off the phone to
call the neighbor.
up the neighbor, waking him up. “Good morning Sir. I’m
calling from the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office. My apologies
for calling at this time of night on Christmas Morning. There’s
been an incident at your neighbor’s farm home, and the caller
is too upset to provide us with adequate directions to get to the
farm. Can you help us?” The neighbor provides me with good
directions, and I’m keeping him on the line while Sheriff,
Police, and EMS are on the way, in case they have questions about
mean time, Rinda is learning from the caller that there were three
intruders. One is now believed to be dead, and the husband is holding
the other two at bay at the point of a gun… From time to time,
the woman is shouting to her children to stay upstairs and that
everything will be ok… (You could hear the kids cry and call
out for their mother over the phone...)
the units started arriving on scene, I advised the neighbor he could
hang up. He asked if he should go over to the scene. I suggested
that after some time, his neighbors might likely need his support,
but at the moment, the scene was not yet secured, and we can’t
say if it’s safe to go over there. “For now, please
several law enforcement officers were on the scene, and the ambulance
arrived soon after. One male subject was pronounced dead at the
scene, and two males were in custody. The County Attorney / Coroner
and a Criminal Investigators were requested to come to the scene.
The neighbor was called back, and asked if he and his wife might
come to the scene to watch over the children, while the man and
woman were brought to the Sheriff’s Office to be interviewed
and such. Rinda was asked if she could be present during the interview
with the woman. I took over her position at the radio consol while
she went to collect herself before their arrival.
two males in custody were transported to the jail. While the first
of these two was being processed, the other was placed in a holding
cell to await his turn. From the radio consol, I turned to look
through the windows of the holding cell, and was aghast to recognize
a young man whom I’d known in high school. He was in my class.
As I recalled, he was not a bad guy! He was a good student, and
worked a part time job while attending school. He was never in any
trouble as far as I knew. He was just one of the guys! Yet, here
he was. About to be booked for burglary at the least, and was part
of an incident where another young man lost his life.
and I were interviewed by the investigators for our perspectives.
Everything we had been engaged in was substantiated by the tapes.
All the phone lines and radio channels are recorded on multi track
tape. We were both commended for our actions and involvement, but
we both had a pretty hollow feeling.
out that I’d never experienced a Christmas before or since
where I felt so cold and alone… It was a cold gray morning
when I got home at 8:00 AM. I bypassed breakfast, and went straight
to bed. I didn’t get up until it was time to get ready for
my next shift at work.
all was said and done, we were told what had gone down, i.e. the
Rest of the Story…
farm family had been out of town on vacation to someplace warmer
than Nebraska. Originally, they had not planned to return until
after the New Year. Their home contained antiques, and many nice
suspects had spent the evening partying and drinking, until the
three were quite intoxicated. While it was never made clear to me
how these three guys knew about the contents of the house, and that
the family should have been away for another week, these three decided
to break into the supposedly vacant home at 4:00 AM to steal antiques
gaining access to the house by breaking through the door, they were
met by the man of the house who was armed with a .410 shotgun. Twice,
he loudly ordered the subjects to get back, (as substantiated by
the recordings from the phone,) when the lead subject moved forward
and attempted to take the shotgun from the farmer by grabbing it
by the barrel. The gun went off, striking the subject in the chest
at close range.
results indicated that the blood alcohol level of the fatal subject
was near .20%, which is extremely intoxicated!
Coroner’s Inquest was held a few weeks later. I was subpoenaed,
but was not called to testify. The matter was ruled by the Court
as Justifiable Homicide, in that the farmer had been reasonably
protecting his home and family from unknown intruders.
months later, I was with a group of friends at a barbecue, when
an acquaintance started mouthing off how so and so, (one of the
subjects involved,) got a bum rap. I held my tongue until this idiot
started going on that the farmer had committed out and out, premeditated
murder, and that everyone needed to protest until justice was done!
point, I spoke up. “You called it murder. We’re you
no, but he had talked to someone, who knows this other person, and
followed it up laughing with, “Hell no, I wasn’t there,
responded, “No, I wasn’t there, but I had the next best
seat at the event. I was on the phone with the family when it happened,
and heard their door being broke down. I heard the fear in their
voices as they called for help. I heard their children crying in
fear. I heard the farmer order them to get back twice, and I heard
the fatal shot. “I was a lot closer to the event than you’ll
ever want to be!”
who knew me quietly nodded their heads in agreement, while the blow
hard could only reply with, “That’s bullshit! You work
for the Fu**in Pigs!”
the years since, I’ve gone out of my way to not associate
with that blow hard ever again! Not out of fear, but because I simply
did not like him. I always knew he could be an idiot, but this interaction
settled my opinion once and for all, in case there was any question.
As Will Rogers once said, “You can’t argue with
and a couple of other less dramatic incidents finally brought me
to the conclusion that if I was going to stay in this line of work,
I was going to have to move to a different community. This little
city was the home town where I grew up and I was too close to these
Purple Sage Law Enforcement