Friday, May 16, 1986, found the Cokeville, Wyoming law enforcement officers all out of town. It wasn’t normal for every officer to be out of town, but Cokeville was a small town of just 535 people, and normally a quiet place, where nothing ever happened. It was a peaceful place where everyone knew each other. It was a great place to raise a family. Everyone went to church together, worked together, and played together…on a normal day, but this day was not going to be a normal day. This was a miraculous day.
That day, around 1:00pm, David Young, a disgruntled and mentally unstable former Cokeville marshal; his wife, Doris; and his youngest daughter, Princess, known as Penny; entered the town’s only elementary school with an arsenal of weapons and a gasoline bomb in a grocery cart. David Young had initially planned to involve longtime friends Gerald Deppe and Doyle Mendenhall. They had invested money with him in a get-rich-quick scheme that he had called “The Biggie.” This, however, was too much for the men, who eventually refused to participate in the event. Both men were handcuffed in a van outside the school.
No one saw this coming. Why would they? Nothing like that had ever happened in Cokeville before. There was still an air of innocence in the town…until that day. The trio entered the school, and Doug Young began threatening the people. It was at this point that Penny also refused to participate and after her dad said she was “no daughter of his” she left to tell the police. Unfortunately, other than the office personnel at the police station, there was no one who could really help, but help was on the way, nevertheless.
As the events unfolded, the Youngs took the school hostage. They had a bomb, and it was leaking gas. The children were getting sick, and teachers felt led to open the windows. Children later said that they saw people dressed in white told them to go near the windows. One teacher felt led to make a box with tape on the floor so that the bomber was in there by himself. No one was allowed in but Doug, the bomber and his wife, Doris. When the bomber went to the restroom, he put the string that would set off the bomb on his wife’s wrist. She forgot not to move her arm up, and she accidently set off the bomb. She was killed. A bomb expert who examined the bomb said that there had been gunpowder under the bomb, and had it not become wet with gasoline, it would have been as if the air was on fire. He also said that several of the wires were cut, and there was no explanation as to how that had happened, but it meant that the bomb didn’t have its full force. The students said they saw beings of light all around the bomb when it went off. Doug came out of the restroom and saw that he had failed. He went back in and fatally shot himself, after shooting one teacher in the back, somehow missing his spine by about an inch. Other than that teacher, no one was injured. The bomb did go off, but most of its power was miraculously thwarted. Afterwards, everyone who was there, told the same stories of people dressed in white, and beings of light. No one wavered about what they saw. No one changed their minds. You can believe what you want, but as for me…I believe God sent His angels and gave them charge over the teachers and children at Cokeville Elementary School that day. And the angels bore them up and kept them safe. Glory be to God!!
The old West as a wild place with very little law enforcement, and there was a lot of distance between lawmen. That also left room for may forms of lawlessness. I can’t say for sure that the gun for hire started in the old West, but it seems plausible. One such “gun for hire” was Thomas “Tom” Horn Jr, who often used the alias of James Hicks. Horn was born in Memphis, Missouri on November 21, 1860. He would become one of the most celebrated hired guns of the Old West, winning national fame for his freelance work, due in large part to his autobiography. Nevertheless, he wound up on the gallows for practicing his trade.
Tom was the fifth of 12 children, and his father, Tom Horn Sr, was a strict disciplinarian. Apparently, Tom didn’t like his dad’s strict ways, so he ran away in 1874 at the age of 14. Horn headed west…first to Santa Fe, then on to Arizona. By the time he was 15, he was an army scout and involved in many campaigns for more than a decade, including Geronimo’s surrender in 1886, in which Horn said he played a major role. During that time he also learned Spanish. As to his own account, Horn writing that he played a big role in the surrender of Geronimo, many historians doubt that, and actual accounts of that day indicate that Tom was there solely as a Spanish to English interpreter. After the surrender of Geronimo, Horn was discharged as a scout and reportedly mined for a while in Aravaipa, Arizona. Other than his autobiography, little is known about this period of his life for sure. We know that he was involved somehow with the Pleasant Valley War between Arizona cattlemen and sheepmen, but for which side is not clear.
It was during this time he decided to give law enforcement a try. In 1890, after proving himself during a short stint as a deputy sheriff in Arizona, Horn joined the Pinkerton Agency as a roving gunman, and using his gun with lethal effectiveness, tracked down dozens of outlaws, reputedly killing 17 men. He was pressured to resign by the agency, even though he was respected as a tracker. It seemed that with Horn came bad publicity. Horn decided to go it alone as a cattle detective, turning up in Wyoming in 1894 working for the beef barons. Horn denied killing anyone for the Pinkertons. Nevertheless, he was offering the same lethal services to the cattlemen, who were engulfed in what is known as the Johnson County War. As a “Stock Detective”, for each cattle rustler he shot, he charged $500-$600 and proved himself to be a methodical manhunter and ruthless killer. Horn once said “Killing men is my specialty. I look at it as a business proposition, and I think I have a corner on the market.”
After a short stint in Tampa, Florida working as a packer during the Spanish American War in 1898, Horn contacted Malaria and once mended, he headed back to Wyoming and returned to his dealings as a “gun for hire”. Records show that he was hired to stop cattle rustling in Brown’s Hole, Colorado in 1900, at which time he was going by the name James Hicks. He would boast in a letter, “I stopped cow stealing in one summer”, this being after he killed two area ranchers and scared the rest of the rustlers out of the area. In mid July, 1901, William Nickell, the 14 year old son of a sheep rancher, was ambushed and killed in the Iron Mountain region, allegedly due to a case of mistaken identity, as the bullet was meant for his father. About a week later, the boy’s father, Kels Nickell, was shot in the arm and hip during another ambush. U.S. Deputy Marshal Joe LeFors suspected Horn’s involvement. LeFors, wanting to gain a confession out of Horn, pretended to be in need of someone to take on a rustler clean up job in Montana. During this famous interview, Horn admitted to the Nickell’s shootings, not knowing that there was a court reporter hiding and taking notes. Ultimately, the interview would be his undoing. Although Horn alleged at his trial that he was drunk during the interview, he was found guilty on October 23, 1902, with the Wyoming State Supreme Court denying him a new trial. He was sentenced to hang, which was carried out in Cheyenne, Wyoming on November 20, 1903.
For the past 27 years, my brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock has been a peace officer. He spent the first seven years as a deputy for the Natrona County Sheriff’s Department, and the last twenty years as a police officer for the Casper Police Department. All that has come to and end now, as Chris retires from service. For me, as for most of his family, it is a very strange thought. We have identified Chris as a police officer for so long, that it’s almost as if we have to figure out who he is now. I know that is often the case with any retiree, no matter what field, but some changes seem bigger than others. When my husband, Bob Schulenberg retired, his identity went with him. He was a mechanic, and he still is a mechanic. His location just changed. That’s what happened when Chris switched from the sheriff’s department to the Casper police department…different location, but the same job. For Chris all that will change now, as he begins his new career in sales. It will be a big change, but I believe it will be a good change.
Chris served the people of Natrona County and the city of Casper for 27 years, and that is an amazing feat for a man in law enforcement. Law enforcement is a demanding occupation, both physically and emotionally, and 27 years is a long time to take that kind of abuse. The physical part of it is hard enough…running after people, jumping fences without knowing exactly what is on the other side, forcing their way into places where criminals are trying to keep them out, and pulling people out of cars and other places they have been trapped in…just to name a few. The emotional strain is far worse, in my opinion. Whenever an officer goes out on a call, they must almost force their adrenalin into high gear. I could say that one type of call is worse than another, but in reality, every call has the potential to reach a flashpoint…that moment, when communication breaks down, and the situation explodes. What might seem to be a simply traffic stop, suddenly puts officer against perpetrator, and sparks fly. Having gone on ride-alongs with Chris, I can say that I have seen those points a time or two. I can also say that my brother-in-law has an uncanny ability to de-escalate a situation better than anyone I’ve ever seen.
Chris is not retiring outright, but is rather going to go to work for Comcast in their sales department. He will be working in the area of police radios and such, so it’s really right up his alley. While it is going to be a big change for Chris, as well as my sister, Allyn and their kids, it is really the best move for him. Like a caregiver, the stress of his occupation could have, at some point become detrimental to his health. Yes, you can take care of yourself, but stress is stress, and it’s hard to avoid when your job demands it. There just comes a time when you know that it’s time to move on, and that was were Chris was, so once he was at the point of being vested, he knew it was his time to move. This really is a very positive move for Chris, and I wish him well in all his future ventures. Chris, we the people of Casper and Natrona County thank you for you years of faithful service. We congratulate you on your retirement. On now to new adventures!! We love you!!
Our family has long been proud of my brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock’s outstanding career as a police officer, first for the Natrona County Sheriff’s Department, and then beginning in 1997, for the Casper Police Department. Years ago, while working in sales, Chris found himself disenchanted with how that career was going, and saw it as basically a dead end road for him. He told my sister, Allyn that he didn’t think medicine or paramedic work was for him, but he had a desire to help people, and he really thought he could do so as a police officer. It was a big step, and one that my sister wasn’t sure she wanted him to take, but for Chris, it has been the best move he could have made. At that time, the family was living in Pueblo, Colorado, so they made the move back to Casper, and he began pursuing his chosen career.
Not everyone is cut out to be a cop…either because of their temperament or their ability to handle the situations that can some up as an officer of the law, but Chris was the best candidate for the job. He is level headed, especially under pressure, and at 6’4″ tall, he is a daunting presence to anyone considering the foolish act of resisting arrest. Even with his ability to strong arm a perpetrator, Chris is always considerate of their feelings, and often that is all it takes to calm an agitated situation without the use of force. I know this, because on numerous occasions I have taken the opportunity to ride along when he was working, and have seen him in action. I’ve watched him keep his cool, when the person he was up against obviously had a gun, and Chris was able to defuse the situation, and apprehend the man without incident.
Chris worked as one of the school officers following so many school shootings and other school related issues around our country. It made many parents feel much better about sending their children to school, knowing that the police would be there to make sure it was a safer environment. Before long, the Casper Police Department saw the leadership skills Chris had, and they promoted him to sergeant. Of course, this was not without action on Chris’ part, because to qualify for the promotions the department offers, Chris had to take a test, which he passed with flying colors. Chris did very well in the supervisory positions that being a sergeant entailed, and was so well respected, that he was offered the position of training officer. This led to the time when Chris was involved in recruiting and training the new recruits. Toward the end of his career as a Sergeant, Chris worked as a Detective Sergeant in investigations.
Friday marked the next step in a long and successful career for my brother-in-law, when he was honored as the newest Lieutenant for the Casper Police Department. His new position will place him in charge of the sergeants in Investigations. It is a position that Casper’s police chief has wanted to place Chris in for some time, and so expressed in his speech at the ceremony. Then, the long anticipated big moment arrived, when my sister, Allyn Hadlock, Chris’ wife, as given the great privilege of pinning on the shiny lieutenant’s bars and the new shield. The journey Chris has taken is a remarkable one, and we, his family are so very proud of him. He is looking forward to the next part of his career as a peace officer, and I know he will excel at it too. We all want to wish him the very best as he begins this new phase. Chris, we are so very proud of you, and all you have accomplished. Congratulations!! We love you!!
When I was a kid, I thought that mostly men carried or used guns…probably because I watched too many old Western shows in which the women were portrayed as weak and needing protection. The only women who carried or used guns were looked upon like…well less than womanly…I mean most of those women were outlaws who wore mens pants for Pete’s sake. The only time the women in the Old West movies used a gun was when there was no other choice, and no man around to save her, and even then, she usually lost the fight, unless she was the main star. Needless to say it was probably a pretty warped view of the women of the West on my part.
Of course, now that I am older, I know that this portrayal was very incorrect. The women of the Old West were a tough lot. They might have been looked at by people from back East as less than womanly, but times were changing, and women had to be tough to survive in the Old West. The men who came to settle the West needed women who could work side by side with them and who were tough enough to take care of themselves when the men were away. Only the most determined women were going to be able to make it here. Things have changed some now. There are probably as many women back east that can handle a gun as there are women out west who can. Womem are active in many careers that require them to carry a gun on a regular basis, and be tough enough to go up against the men they must to survive, whether it be in war or law enforcement.
My grandmother was one of those women who was able to handle a gun, and while they never moved as far west as my dad and my aunts did, they did not live in the east either. Wisconsin and Minnesota were wilder places back then, and even in North Dakota in the early 1900’s there was need for a gun. Of course, mostly the guns were used for hunting, but had the need ever arisen, my grandmother would have taken on man or beast to protect her children. She was one tough lady, who worked hard on the farm, and raised her children right, and I am very proud of all she did. I only wish I had been able to know her, but I was only 3 months old when she left us on July 11, 1956. I look forward to getting to know her in Heaven, because I’m sure she will have some stories to tell.