Gillette Police Officer Jon Hardy in his patrol car
(Gillette, Wyo.) It’s not often Gillette lands in the national news, but for the worst reasons, on Dec. 20, 1983, Gillette was the location of a horrific murder spree that left a police officer and five others, including the killer, dead.
Mary Alice Beatty, who was 26-years-old in 1983, worked as an equipment operated at the Wyodak Power Plant since April 1981.
Dale Chamberlain, 28, was a unit manager at the plant since 1978, and acted as Beatty’s supervisor at the plant. Apparently, Chamberlain took a liking to Beatty, who didn’t return his affections. He wasn’t taking no for an answer.
On Nov 14, she filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Wyoming Fair Employment Commission.
Sheriff D.B. Hladky said after the events Chamberlain was known to have violent fantasies and was extremely upset at the complaint Beatty filed.
The morning of Dec. 20 was a bitterly cold morning, with wind chills dipping down to 50 degrees below zero.
Pam Houle, 31, a good friend of Beatty, had been consoling her over her problems with Chamberlain and may have encouraged her to file the complaint.
Early that morning, Chamberlain went to Houle’s rural ranch house and set off a bomb. Houle and her two pre-teen children, Jimmy and David, were killed. A friend, Douglas L. Olsen, 30, was also killed in the blast. Later, coroners determined they had been shot prior to the explosion.
Armed with automatic weapons, Chamberlin drove to Beatty’s house on Harder Drive and took her hostage. At mid-morning, two police officers responded to reports of a prowler at the house. One of the officers was Jon Roy Hardy.
Hardy was born in Bowling Green, Ohio, in 1957. Hardy served in the Air Force between 1978 and 1982. He worked briefly at the juvenile detention center in Rapid City, SD.
In Aug. 1982, he got a job as a patrol officer with the Gillette Police Department, and he and his family moved to town.
When he arrived at Beatty’s house on that morning of Dec. 20, he and Officer Del Wright were ambushed. More police responded to the scene, and Chamberlain’s gunfire kept them from reaching the wounded officers.
The police used two trucks to shield an ambulance that picked up both the officers and took them to the hospital. Hardy, who was shot in the neck, later died. Wright survived his injuries.
Hardy is the only Gillette police officer in the town’s history to lose his life in the line of duty.
The entire standoff lasted two hours, and Chamberlain was killed when a bomb he was holding detonated. It was never determined for certain if the detonation was intentional or not. Police later found several more bombs in the house and Chamberlain’s truck.
Beatty was injured in the blast. She later sued the city of Gillette and Campbell County, alleging the officers acted negligently. The suit claimed a stray bullet from a police sharpshooter had caused her to lose the use of her right hand.
She sought nearly $2 million in compensation from the city and county. In the end, the city and county settled out-of-court with Beatty for $350,000 each.