15 Law Enforcement Officers Murdered By Domestic Extremists Since the Oklahoma City Bombing
Since the Oklahoma City bombing, domestic extremists have murdered 15 law enforcement officers. Each of their deaths was a unique tragedy.
By Susy Buchanan
Otero County, N.M., Sheriff's Department
Dec. 18, 2004
Forty-nine-year-old sheriff's deputy Robert Hedman had been patrolling the mountainous area of Otero County, N.M., just west of El Paso, for five years. The communities he policed were small, places like Cloudcroft, which clings to the mountains above Alamagordo at an elevation of 9,000 feet.
Hedman lived nearby with his wife Cheryl. The couple had met at the Alamo Rosa truck stop and restaurant where she worked about three years earlier and married after a quick courtship. Now, Hedman was dividing his free time between visiting her at the Alamo Rosa and building a home in the mountains.
Hedman was born in Cooperstown, N.Y., and served 21 years in the Army, where he earned a bronze star for his bravery in the Viet Nam war. He served as a military police officer and member of the Special Forces before finally retiring at the rank of staff sergeant in 1994 and making his way to New Mexico. A dispatcher who worked with him at the Otero County Sheriff's Department described Hedman as "a vibrant human being who never left dispatch without giving each of us a hug and a loving word of departure."
On the night of Dec. 18, 2004, snow covered the ground around Cloudcroft, where Hedman was mingling with other guests at a Christmas party. Although he didn't know it yet, not far from the party, in a rented, one-story log cabin, all hell was breaking loose.
The cabin's tenants were Earl Flippen, Flippen's pregnant girlfriend Deborah Rhodes, and her 3-year-old daughter. Flippen, an ex-con with a lengthy rap sheet in Texas and New Mexico, was new to the area. He was also a full-blown member of the Aryan Brotherhood gang, with a body covered in tattoos of skulls, dragons and topless women, as well as the words "White Pride."
Flippen and Rhodes had a difficult relationship. Flippen had been arrested two months earlier, in Texas, and charged with assault and evading arrest after allegedly beating Rhodes. He'd skipped his court date and was on the run.
This night, something set Flippen off once again. But this time, he killed his girlfriend, shooting her in the head and dragging her body into a closet. Neighbors heard gunshots and called the authorities.
Robert Hedman got the call around 7 p.m. The Christmas party was over. Hedman and partner Bill Anders, who was said to be Hedman's closest friend, drove to Flippen's cabin, noticing a car backed up to the front door with the hatchback open as they pulled up. As they approached, Flippen opened the cabin door for the officers but then would not let them enter. He seemed nervous and shut the door on them. But Hedman and Anders had spotted blood on the floor. Anders went back to the cruiser to radio for backup, while Hedman walked to the back of the house.
Flippen was lying in wait. Ambushing the deputy, Flippen unloaded his .357-caliber handgun into Hedman's head.
Anders discovered his best friend's body just moments later, and a gunfight between him and Flippen broke out. Flippen was wounded and Anders got him into handcuffs before shooing the dead woman's unhurt 3-year-old into the cabin. Then the distraught deputy shot Flippen in the chest at point blank range. In August 2005, Anders pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was awaiting sentencing at press time.