Posted 3/29/16 (Tue)
By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer
The memory of Keith Braddock, a Watford City police officer who was killed in the line of duty on March 20, 1996, will live on forever in the new McKenzie County Law Enforcement Center.
The special ceremony was attended by family, friends, law enforcement officers, city officials, and community members on March 20, 20 years to the date that Senior Patrol Officer Keith Allen Braddock was slain. It was announced that the Watford City Police Department’s conference room in the new law enforcement center would be named the “Braddock Room.”
“It was a very nice ceremony,” said Harry Braddock, Officer Braddock’s son. “It was good that he got the recognition. If my dad was here, he wouldn’t think he deserved the honor. He was kind of humble about that kind of stuff.”
The event was organized and put on by the Watford City Police Department. According to Chief of Police Art Walgren, the idea came up during discussions about naming rooms at the new law enforcement center. Assistant Chief of Police Jesse Wellen mentioned naming a room after fallen Officer Braddock, and the department decided to go with the idea.
“A few of us then worked together to come up with ideas, which room to name, and how to go about it,” stated Walgren. “This has been in the works for about two to three months. We felt this was a good thing to do as it names one of our rooms, as well as recognizes the sacrifice of Keith Braddock and his family.”
The ceremony was well attended and fallen Officer Braddock’s son and his wife and children, and a cousin he graduated with, made the trip to be present at the special ceremony at the Watford City Civic Center. Speakers included Watford City’s Chief Walgren, Watford City’s Mayor Brent Sanford, and Harry Braddock.
A shadow box, specially made in honor of the fallen officer, was unveiled at the ceremony, and will be displayed outside the main police department conference room at the new law enforcement center.
“The mayor spoke and read a letter from former Watford City Police Department Chief Daryl Vance. Harry spoke, and I did as well,” Walgren stated. “The shadow box contains a letter from ODMP (Officer Down Memorial Page), a letter from myself, a picture of Keith by his squad car, an ODMP Challenge Coin, and the old version of our Police Department badge and patch.”
The ceremony, the first of its kind in 20 years, honored a man that was remembered by many.
“My dad was a good guy,” stated Harry Braddock. “He would do whatever he could to help someone out, and he would never ask for anything in return. It was nice to have the ceremony and to see people I haven’t seen in many years.”
Officer Braddock Slain In Line Of Duty 20 Years Ago
(The following are excerpts from the March 27, 1996 issue of the McKenzie County Farmer after the shooting of Keith Braddock, a 16½-year veteran of the Watford City Police Department.)
What started out as a normal evening Wednesday, March 20, 1996, turned into a nightmare that left an entire community shaken in the aftermath of the killing of Officer Keith Braddock, a 16½-year veteran of the Watford City Police Department and two area residents being held at gunpoint for nine hours.
Customers were in the American Legion in Watford City having drinks and unwinding after a day of work. Elmo Sorenson and his wife, Ellinor, were sitting at a table near the door with friends enjoying appetizers. Bud Drovdal was sitting close by conversing with Ellinor about her children, and Pat Wagner had stopped in the Legion at about 5 p.m. to have a drink and visit with friends.
The club was full of about 20 people including Robert Mead Jr. of Grassy Butte. He apparently ordered a beer and didn’t like it, so he ordered another one, but wasn’t satisfied with that one either.
Mead then left the Legion and returned shortly thereafter with two high-powered rifles, one in each hand.
According to Wagner, Mead shot into the ceiling, took three or four steps, shot into the ceiling again and yelled for someone to bring him a real beer and to get Dean Meyer on the phone. But instead of calling Meyer, someone called the police.
According to Bud Drovdal, Mead went on about Meyer taking away his grandchildren’s mineral rights.
Shortly before the first shots were fired, Sorenson had excused himself and went to the restroom. When he returned, he sat down and began to visit with Drovdal.
According to Sorenson, Officer Keith Braddock walked in and more shooting started. “Mead fired first, and Braddock crouched down behind the east end of the bar and fired back,” said Sorenson.
Braddock’s shot caught Mead about four inches above the knee, but according to Sorenson it didn’t seem to phase him. Mead then returned fire shooting about five rounds at Braddock, who then fired about three shots back at Mead.
It was during this exchange of gunfire that Officer Braddock was struck by one fatal shot. According to police, Braddock was struck in the upper left chest by one bullet that hit the bottom portion of his badge on his jacket, as well as hit the badge on his shirt. The badges and bullet fragmented causing almost instantaneous death.
According to Sorenson, everything happened very rapidly and people ran out of the club when the first shots were fired.
Drovdal and Sorenson were sitting at the west end of the club at the time of the shooting, and Mead took them both as hostages. Mead told the men to stay since they were the oldest - they had the ‘privilege’ of being with him. Mead had the gun pointed at both men and made them move to the west end of the bar and had them sit there. The whole time, his rifle was positioned across his arm to watch his hostages.
After about a half hour, Mead put up a barricade by the doors and windows. He apparently dragged a small deep freeze over and pushed it down the stairwell and piled chairs on top of it.
According to Drovdal, Mead took chairs and built a fort for protection in case the S.W.A.T. Team came in.
The two hostages didn’t know what was going to happen next. According to Sorenson, Mead said, “Make a wrong move and you’re dead.” Drovdal commented that they were threatened that way a few times.
As time passed, Drovdal and Sorenson tried to talk to Mead about ranching, farming, and cattle. “That way, we could get a little more acquainted and could sort of act like friends,” stated Sorenson.
After about four or five hours of talking, Mead made demands to the police. His first demand for a hot meal was met, and then according to Sorenson, he told the negotiators that he would give them 10 minutes to deliver 250 pounds of additional food. Then a little while later he told them that they had two minutes to make their delivery or there would be dead bodies.
Mead used Officer Braddock’s police walkie talkie to converse with the negotiators until the batteries ran out, and then he talked to them by phone.
Sorenson reported that as time went along, he could tell that Mead was wearing down and that he was more easily satisfied. “At first he wouldn’t let us use the bathroom without the gun on us,” he stated. “But toward the last few hours, we could go and he didn’t follow us.”
One of Mead’s concerns was also for Drovdal to get the medication, which was delivered, that he needed. “He called me Grandpa Bud because of the jacket I was wearing, and he asked me if I had taken enough of my medicine,” stated Drovdal. But according to information received from the Watford City Police Department, the medication which was dropped off for Drovdal was never taken inside the Legion.
Mead finally agreed to talk to a cousin who persuaded him to give up. “At first he was reluctant,” said Sorenson. Mead stated, “I’m not going to be shot like a dog, and if they arrest me, I’ll be in prison all my life and I don’t want that.”
Finally at approximately 2:20 a.m., on Thursday morning, nearly nine hours after being held as hostages, Mead released his first hostage. Mead turned to Drovdal and told him that he was a free man and that he could go.
At first Mead told Drovdal to go out the front door, but then made him exit using the back door because of his fear of the S.W.A.T. Team. After more negotiating, Mead put his guns against the bar and told Sorenson that he was free and could go.
Mead then walked out the front door and headed south toward the newspaper building. According to Sorenson, a police officer was lying on his stomach positioned to shoot Mead. He yelled at him to stop and Mead dropped to his knees. Once he dropped to his knees, police rushed in, grabbed the last hostage, and arrested Mead. It wasn’t until after Mead walked out of the Legion that authorities could get inside and confirm Officer Braddock’s death. It was determined that Braddock had bled to death approximately 30 minutes after being wounded.
Mead was later convicted of Officer Braddock’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Officer Braddock was an U.S. Army veteran, and had served with the Watford City Police Department for almost 17 years. He left behind a wife, Mary, a son, Harry, and two daughters, Becky and Lisa.
“Keith was proud to be a peace officer,” stated Neal Shipman, following Officer Braddock’s death. “He lived his life as a peace officer and in doing so, he paid the ultimate price when he died as a peace officer. Keith Braddock will be remembered as a hero, but more importantly, he will be remembered as a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a comrade, and a friend - a man who loved life and living.”