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Gillette police officers gather to honor Jon Hardy

Charlie Byers, who was a Gillette police officer for 28 years, reflects on its history, including the legacy of Jon Hardy, who was killed in the line of duty. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — With tears in his eyes, former Gillette police officer Charlie Byers said that he is grateful for one thing when he thinks back about the day Dale Chamberlain killed Gillette police officer Jon Hardy nearly 40 years ago: how bitterly cold it was that morning.

Byers, who served the department for 27 and a half years, was one of dozens of people who attended a memorial ceremony for Hardy on Thursday at Gillette City Hall.

Chamberlain had been pursuing a relationship with Mary Alice Beatty, who worked for him at Wyodak Power Plant. Beatty wasn’t interested in Chamberlain and rejected his advances. Chamberlain wouldn’t let it go.

Beatty filed a sexual harassment complaint against Chamberlain, possibly following advice from her confidant Pam Houle, retired Campbell County Sheriff’s Office Deputy James Hall, said in 2021. On Dec. 20, 1983, Chamberlain shot Doug Olsen, Houle, and Houle’s two children and bombed their house.

Chamberlain then forced entry into Beatty’s house on Harder Drive and took her hostage. He called police to falsely report a prowler at a nearby home. Hardy, who had been on the force for less than a year, and former Gillette police officer Del Wright, were the first on the scene, Byers said.

Hardy and Wright checked with the residents at the home where the prowler reportedly was, and after confirming the scene was clear, they began returning to their patrol car.

That’s when Chamberlain opened fire with an AR-15 rifle, killing Hardy.

He sustained gunfire that prevented backup from reaching Hardy and Wright, and law enforcement ultimately backed a city sand truck down the street so officers could recover them.

For nearly two hours, police and a CCSO unit surrounded Beatty’s house, where Chamberlain held her hostage. Beatty survived a series of explosions of pipe bombs Chamberlain had crafted.

Byers remembers getting the call around 10 a.m. that that an officer was down, getting dressed and grabbing his shotgun to report to the scene. When he was a couple blocks north of the address, he heard a shot and then an explosion.

“Only God knows what [Chamberlain] was going to do,” Byers said.

He said that if it weren’t for the double-digit-below-zero temperatures that morning, Wright, who was shot in the hip, might have died too. Wright left the department in December 2003, Gillette Deputy Police Chief Brent Wasson said.

Byers, who still lives in Gillette, said it remains difficult for him to be on Harder Drive.

Hardy and Chamberlain, who both served in the military, were buried at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota, but “nowhere near each other,” Byers said. Byers led a procession from Gillette to Sturgis and remembers the crowds that came to show support.

He and former Gillette Police Department officer and sheriff’s deputy Kevin McGrath both remember how Hardy was always smiling. McGrath, who carried Chamberlain out on a stretcher, said the officer did his job with supreme professionalism.

Byers said Hardy, “a little guy,” was quiet until he needed to be loud. The long-time officer said he couldn’t help but like the man he’d only known for several months.

“It’s a shame that Jon’s career was cut short,” Byers said. “He was going to be a good officer. He was a good officer.”

Gillette Police Officer Jon Hardy in his patrol car

To this day, Hardy remains the only Gillette police officer to be killed in the line of duty.

Byers asked the Gillette community to keep law enforcement in their thoughts and prayers. This year’s memorial for Hardy was the first Byers had been to since his wife’s death five years ago, which drove him into reclusiveness, he said. He said he plans to attend the ceremonies again in the future.

Correction, May 24, 2022: The story has been updated with Wright’s time of departure from the department.