No one knows better the danger that a tense circumstance can present than police in the United States. Constantly under pressure to control people who are guaranteed rights that provide them a wide latitude of no control, the scenarios that citizens can present range from the mundane to sheer terror, even for a trained professional. With that thought, we continue to reflect on moments in the history of law enforcement we wish we could get back, the sacrifices of those that have paid the ultimate price on our behalf.
Pendleton is a far-away town, tucked inside the far-away northeastern corner of Oregon. Originally an old west trading post, Pendleton grew into a sizable town in the 1800’s, quickly receiving the designation of city by the newly formed Oregon government of the time. Since then, the pioneering spirit of proprietorship took hold in Pendleton, and Pendleton Woolen Mills was born, out of the rich industry of sheep cattle throughout the industry, makers of clothes, blankets, and other household fabrics and garments. Along with it, came a tradition of celebrating the cowboy spirit of Pendleton, and the famous Pendleton Round-Up became an annual rodeo, that combined very traditional aspects of bronco riding in the area with common rodeo themes. Aside from that, Hood River Distillers makes the famous Pendleton Whisky, named for the area, using the famous Pendleton logo of a cowboy on top of a bucking bronco, with the words “Let’er Buck,” the slogan of the Round-Up, and a showing of the town’s character, which is to take it all on. Cavalier or not, Pendleton is town that has its own identity, and has no shame in being what it is. They are home to the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, which sits practically in the center of town. While most communities would want a prison built in the distance from them, Pendleton has taken the facility in with its identity. But not everything that’s come to town has been welcome, or something anyone would want. And unfortunately, that brings us to a grim chapter in the free-spirited town.
Correctional Officer Buddy R. Herron
Correctional Officer Buddy Herron was a civil servant, to put it lightly. After serving in the US Navy Reserve, he joined the Arizona Department of Corrections and worked for that agency for 12 years, before joining the Oregon Department of Corrections, where he ultimately served for four years. Not only that, but he was volunteer firefighter in the small community of Helix, where he, his wife Kim, and four children resided. Correctional Officer Buddy Herron worked graveyard shift at the facility, and on his way to work on Monday, November 28th, 2011, when he drove down Oregon Highway 11, and saw a car parked on the side of road that appeared disabled. What he didn’t know, was that Joshua Charles Weeks, a three-time felon already, was in the car, and had just committed a burglary at his mother and stepfather's home, and that Weeks knew police were not too far behind. Weeks was a methamphetamine addict, who stole many people’s identity over the years to fuel his drug habit, had been slowly reaching a point of no return in his mind. In August of 2011, he had been arrested in Idaho for aggravated assault, which if you read Weeks’ criminal history, shows that his criminal behavior was escalating, and this incident could have been stopped. Correctional Officer Buddy Herron stopped b0ehind the vehicle, and asked if Weeks needed help. Instead, Weeks tried to steal his vehicle, and when Correctional Officer Buddy Herron tried to stop him, Weeks stabbed him multiple times. Correctional Officer Buddy Herron called 911, gave his location, while Weeks drove off in the officer’s vehicle, which would make it the second car stolen by Weeks that night. An hour later, Weeks was captured by local police and sheriff’s deputies, while Correctional Officer Buddy Herron took his last breath, dying at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Pendleton, in the early morning of Tuesday, November 29th, 2011.
The incident caused an emotional and political stir in greater Oregon. The discussion about death penalty law, and limiting criminal appeals popped up in coverage of Correctional Officer Buddy Herron’s death, unfortunately. But those who knew him, provided a most professional funeral service for a man who had served his entire life for the greater good of his fellow man. And in the end, that’s the best we can offer in the form of condolence. If you drive out to Milepost 3 on Highway 11, outside of Pendleton, there is no memorial for Correctional Officer Buddy Herron. That may be best, as a constant reminder to the small communities in the area may be too much to have to drive past every day. His death is always fresh in their minds, and won’t ever go away. But for the rest of us, we hope this memory of Correctional Officer Buddy Herron reminds you of how dangerous it is to wear a uniform on behalf of others. Even in trying to help, it can be read differently. At CaseGuard, not only does the memory of Correctional Officer Buddy Herron live on vividly with us, but the constant reminder of those who face such terrible loss daily, forever after. We mourn with the Herron family.
In memory of Correctional Officer Buddy Ray Herron.