Broadwater County Sheriff’s deputy Mason Moore was out on patrol like he had been many times in his role with the Broadwater County Sheriff’s office. He was well trained. But that morning, one year ago, nothing, no training could have prepared anyone for what would happen next.
The killing of the deputy in the early morning hours of May 16, 2017, during a traffic stop, shocked the community and had a huge impact on law enforcement across the state.
Looking back on the tragedy, a trio of sheriffs remember that fateful day and how they banded together to support their law enforcement families:
“(The) phone call was my dispatch, (saying) that they couldn’t get Mason on the radio,” Broadwater County Sheriff Wynn Meehan recalled. “They had just called me 2 minutes prior and said ‘hey, Mason is in pursuit,’ which wasn’t uncommon and I said ‘just let me know when the guy’s in custody.’”
“(I) Got on the scene and pulled in behind the highway patrolman and got out of my car,” said Meehan. “None of the lights were on in Mason’s car and I walked over there trying to figure out what was going on because no emergency lights, no siren, no nothing and the door was open which I thought was odd. I thought maybe he got out and was running on foot and looked in the driver’s seat and there was Mason. Not in a state I felt that anybody needed to see him in and the highway patrolman showed up and I said ‘give me a blanket’ and covered him up (then) moved everybody back.”
“I remember it was my captain that gave me a call and just the horrible feeling in (my) stomach,” said Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin. “I felt it as we were driving up this morning and it’s just that horrible feeling. I immediately called (Sheriff) Wynn, we’re friends and just told him anything that he needs. I can only imagine what’s going through his brain. We just sent everybody out and helped with the scene, helped with the press, helped with all those things because he needed to take care of his people, which he did.”
“We didn’t know Mason that well, but we really know Wynn (Sheriff Meehan),” said Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton. “That was the hard part. To look at (the) law enforcement family and see them suffer and to know what that loss meant. That’s why Brian and I jumped in our vehicles. When you have something, just like a family member that dies other people come to stand there, they’re just the witness of presence.”
The death of Moore shook the law enforcement family, forcing them to take a closer look at their day-to-day operations and made them realize things are different today.
“Extremely different,” said Wynn. “You know, every night I go to bed worried about the phone ringing and when the phone rings going ‘Oh please Lord just tell me it’s not something bad again.’”
“They were hunting cops to kill,” said Dutton. “That was their mission and had they turned left it would have been one of ours. So at that moment, a split second decision, was Broadwater County instead of us. Our guys think about that all the time, and (it) reminds them that every traffic stop could be something that turns into something fatal. (They) don’t get complacent.”
“99 point 9 percent of the citizens of this state are fantastic good, law-abiding people,” said Gootkin. “We don’t want to treat every one of them as that one percent. We’re still human beings, still the golden rule (is) we still treat people the way they need to be treated but have that in the back of your mind, you know, be ready.”
“We’re fathers and daughters and husbands and wives and brothers and sisters to somebody and they all love us and at the end of the day want us to come home,” said Meehan. “You know in reality these people want to get home to their families and we’re on the same boat, we’re just kind of in a short-term situation that shouldn’t have life-changing effects to it.”
The tragedy of one year ago is something all three men say will be something that they’ll never forget for the rest of their law enforcement careers.
Reporting by Chet Layman for MTN News
VIDEO EXTRA: Extended interviews with law enforcement