Archived Story

Ask Trooper Rob: radKIDS provides children with needed tools for emergencies

Published 10:03pm Thursday, June 28, 2012

Would we train our children how to swim by telling them how in the living room, then throwing them in the water?

Obviously not, so why don’t we teach our children how to live safer in their world today by empowering them with real skills and a positive mindset? Teach, not tell. radKIDS does just that.

radKIDS is a hands-on, activity-based, physical skill development program empowering children with instinctual options they need to recognize, avoid and, if necessary, respond to potential danger. When a child is approached or grabbed, the response needs to be immediate, instinctual and absolute.

Officer Kevin Kosten and I offer this program in the Berrien and Cass counties. With the sponsorship of the Niles Optimist Club, we have the equipment and curriculum to teach 5- to 7- and 8- to 12-year-olds basic safety skills along with physical skills to escape danger. Since the program became a nonprofit organization, 83 children have used this training to save themselves or someone else (such as the daughter who, three days after completing radKIDS, used 911 to save her father who was having a heart attack. She learned all about the emergency number and how it worked in her radKIDS program). This program is also endorsed by Ed Smart, the father of Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her home and missing for nine months. Find more information at 222.radkids.org.

If you have a child who would be interested in this eight- to 10-hour course, classes are 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. July 23-25. The child must be present all three days to receive the certificate and qualification. It is free of charge. The child will be required to bring a snack or sack lunch and wear comfortable clothing. Registration is required. Call (269) 683-4411.

Troopers Gary Rampy, 27, and Charles Stark, 32, were on patrol on Dec. 21, 1971, on Red Arrow Highway near New Buffalo, their assigned post at the time. Rampy, who had enlisted in the Michigan State Police on May 31, 1966, was driving and his partner, Stark, who enlisted in the MSP on May 31, 1964, was the passenger. About 3 a.m., they stopped a green Mercury Comet for possibly an unsafe U-turn. The driver, Jonnie Croxton and the passenger, Dorothy Broz, unknown to the troopers, were suspected of killing a drugstore owner earlier that day in Flat Rock. Croxton was wanted out of Tennessee for a parole violation. He was a former cellmate of Broz’s husband. As Croxton pulled into a driveway, he reached in the backseat and got a .25 caliber handgun and stuffed it in the waistband of his pants. Croxton handed Rampy the registration for the vehicle, which belonged to Broz but could not produce a driver’s license. Smelling alcohol, Rampy had Croxton step to the rear of the patrol car. Broz then distracted Stark by calling him to her window. Suddenly, Croxton and Rampy began scuffling at the rear of the patrol car where Croxton got the drop on Rampy and took his service revolver. As Stark ran towards his partner, Rampy yelled something to the effect of “He’s got a gun and wants your gun or he’ll kill me!”

It is believed Stark surrendered his revolver to save his partner’s life, thinking he could later overpower Croxton. That never happened. As soon as Croxton had Stark’s gun, he shot Rampy point blank with his own revolver. As Stark was taking cover, Croxton shot him in the head. Both troopers had fallen next to their patrol car.

A call for help

Having witnessed the shooting in his driveway, Richard Noveak, called for assistance while another neighbor, Oliver Dohner, rushed to the aid of the troopers after the suspects fled. Dohner then saw the suspects coming back. As Dohner ran for cover, he saw Croxton and Broz bending over each trooper. More gunshots were heard. The suspects began searching the yard and driveway, apparently looking for the registration which they didn’t find. It was under the rear tire of the patrol car. A second call for help was placed, and troopers DenHouten and Hetting raced to the scene, finding the suspect vehicle and giving chase. After chasing them down Red Arrow Highway and Warren Woods Road, they finally stopped on Lakshore Drive. As Croxton bailed from the vehicle, DenHouten rammed the car, throwing Croxton off balance. Croxton took off running for the woods where DenHouten shot with the revolver with negative results. In the excitement, Hettinga locked his car door and couldn’t get it opened. Later, Hettinga could not reenact the cat-like move of flipping out of the window with the shotgun. Hettinga fired the shotgun twice, striking Croxton, who fell still clutching Rampy’s revolver. Stark’s revolver was still in Croxton’s back pocket.

Broz was arrested but she claimed kidnapping and abuse by Croxton. Charges were dismissed by the judge, and she was never charged, despite the witness interviews. Croxton was pronounced dead at St. Joseph Hospital. Stark and Rampy, who were most certainly dead at the scene, were pronounced dead at a hospital in Michigan City.

A new rule

DenHouten and Hettinga were awarded the Bravery medals. The widows of Rampy and Stark received posthumous Valor medals. As a result of this tragedy, troopers are now trained to never surrender their firearms. Legislation was also passed to allow widows of state police to continue receiving pension benefits even if they remarry.

David Rampy, Rampy’s son, was 4 years old at the time of the shooting. I had the privilege to attend the 108th State Police Recruit School with him in 1993. He is currently a lieutenant in our department on the east side of the state.

Buried in Albion, Rampy was the 26th trooper to die in the line of duty. Buried in Muskegon, Stark was the 27th trooper to die in the line of duty.

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