Caddo troopers remembered
by MATT SWEARENGIN
managing editor Durant Daily Democrat

May 26, 2008

Last Updated 10/09/11

    

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CADDO — Three troopers who gave their lives in the line of duty 30 years ago were remembered during a memorial service Monday morning.

On May 26, 1978, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troopers Houston F. “Pappy” Summers and Billy G. Young were killed by prison escapees Claude Dennis and Michael Lancaster near Kenefic.

Second Lt. James “Pat” Grimes was killed later that morning in a subsequent gunfight in front of a Court Street home in Caddo. OHP Lt. Hoyt Hughes was wounded. Both escapees also died during the second gunbattle.

Monday’s memorial was held at the site of the second shootout. Among those attending were highway patrol cadets who will graduate from the academy in June. They dedicated their academy to the troopers who gave their lives.

The memorial began with a prayer by OHP Chaplain Sam Garner, who said the fallen troopers were three soldiers who gave their lives to protect the citizens of Oklahoma.

OHP Capt. Ronnie Hampton said that not only the fallen troopers and one who was wounded were being honored, but also the more than 125 troopers who were sent to Bryan County during the manhunt.

Authorities said that Dennis and Lancaster were responsible for at least five other murders, and Hampton described them as terrorists.

“Thirty years ago, this wasn’t a place where people felt safe,” Hampton said. “For about 34 days, people lived in terror. This was terrorism created by two men who were supposed to be in prison.

“We do many manhunts, but this one was unique in that they actually caused people to live in terror — they were scared.”

Hampton said that for people who lived in Bryan County 30 years ago, this event is as memorable as those on a national scale, such as the Challenger disaster or Sept. 11.

One of those attending the service not only remembers it, he witnessed it. Bryan County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Nave was 10 years old and lived at 503 Court Street.

Nave did not speak during the event but was recognized by Hampton. Nave saw the blue truck that the escapees had stolen from Russell Washington as it pulled into a driveway. He pointed it out to troopers Grimes and Hughes who were yelling for him and two other children to get out of the street.

After the memorial, Nave recalled that he was playing with two other children when he saw the OHP airplane that was tracking the escapees.

“I knew something was up when I saw the airplane fly over low,” Nave said. “The patrol car came up and drove past the pickup. I was trying to tell them where the pickup was while they were yelling for us to get out of the street.”

Nave said he began running home and heard gunshots just as he ran past the patrol car. After he heard the shots, he kept running.

“When they (Dennis and Lancaster) started shooting, the troopers started shooting, but my main concern was getting back home,” Nave said.

Lancaster died from a bullet wound to the neck fired by Hughes. Second Lt. Mike Williams fired the final shots that took down Dennis.

Williams attended the service. Also present were Hughes and OHP Pilot Lloyd Basinger.

The memorial service concluded with the placing of a wreath at the memorial, a pistol volley and the playing of taps by the OHP Honor Guard.

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