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
Palmer, Alaska, Police Department
May 15, 1999
Palmer is a small town of 10,000 or so, home to the Alaska State Fair and 100-pound monster cabbages fed by the summer's almost continuous sunlight and the Matanuska Valley's fertile soil. It is also the place James Rowland and his devoutly religious family moved to in 1978, when Rowland was 10. He grew up among the Sitka spruce and cottonwood, enduring the harsh darkness of winter and the brilliant light of summer, as he matured into a young man. He left for a while to seek his fortune in North Pole, a forlorn town south of Fairbanks, joined the Navy for six years, and finally became a Palmer police officer in 1996.
Rowland was stocky and friendly and known for being exceedingly polite even while under duress. "Even people he arrested said he was a good guy," Sgt. Thomas Remaley remembers.
Rowland was also industrious, a man from a family of builders who was always embarking on one construction project or another. He was building a house for his wife and infant son when he was killed in a Palmer supermarket parking lot on a spring day in 1999.
The Palmer Police Department is small, just eight patrol officers, two sergeants and a chief. Drunk driving, juvenile vandalism and drug offenses are the order of the day for the Palmer PD, as was the 1 a.m. call for a welfare check. Someone was reporting a man slumped over his steering wheel in a local lot. With a firefighter friend riding in the cruiser's passenger seat, Rowland headed out to make the sure man was all right.
Rowland knocked on the door of the vehicle and roused the man, then ran his identification through dispatch. The dispatcher came back over the radio with a 1092, meaning Rowland was being asked if he was clear to receive confidential information: The man Rowland had stopped, Kim Cook, was known as an antigovernment "constitutionalist" and had shown up at the University of Alaska in Anchorage some time before bleeding profusely from the head. It turned out that Cook had just shaved his head with a knife inside a university rest room.
Somehow, Cook overheard the dispatcher going over his history. Panicking, he ran for his truck, then suddenly wheeled and fired at Rowland from inside his jacket pocket with a .22-caliber Derringer. Rowland fell back against the car door, collapsing onto the pavement. He died a short time later.
The tiny Police Department was devastated. The murder so rocked the town that a local reporter says it was referred to simply as "the catastrophic event" for years at City Council meetings and in general conversation.
One day, spontaneously, a man showed up near the spot where Rowland had died with a dump truck full of topsoil. Another brought decorative garden blocks. Trees and shrubs soon followed. A memorial to James Rowland went up virtually by itself.
Six years later, Rowland's loss is still painful. "His death affected all of us greatly," says Sgt. Remaley, his voice heavy with grief.