By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Friends and co-workers of Enid Police Department Sgt. Rick Tanner remember the 15-year veteran of the force as a trusted and reliable officer, as well as a compassionate family man.
Tanner, who unexpectedly died Saturday, joined the department Feb. 9, 1998, and received five commendations during his career. He was awarded a letter of recognition Nov. 15, 2012, for the arrest of a federal fugitive and seizure of marijuana and cocaine.
Tanner spent the majority of his career with the department’s Narcotics Unit and was named Association of Oklahoma Narcotics Enforcers Region V Officer of the Year for 2004-2005. He was a longtime member of the organization.
He is remembered by his fellow officers as someone who could be depended upon.
“I worked with Rick most of his career,” Capt. Dean Grassino said. “Rick was one of those guys that always had your back. Rick was one of those guys that was always there for you.”
Grassino said he and Tanner became good friends. He helped Tanner with a home remodel, and Tanner helped Grassino move after his father passed away.
“We were always there for each other,” Grassino said, “doing one thing or another.”
He said Tanner always enjoyed a good prank. Grassino said he always will remember a time the Narcotics Unit went to Western Sizzlin.
“We all went out to eat and we’re all sitting around the table,” he said. “He picked up a buttered roll and he looks at (Eric) Reddick and throws it right at his forehead. Rick just said, ‘Watch this.’ We still laugh about that to this day.”
Grassino said Tanner was well known throughout the state for his work in narcotics enforcement.
“That’s what he enjoyed doing the most, is working narcotics,” he said. “He knew everybody in the state. Through all the drug investigations he had friends at the federal, state and local level. There wasn’t anybody that didn’t like him.”
Grassino said Tanner’s death has impacted many.
“He’s going to leave a void,” he said.
Lt. Ryan Singleton worked with Tanner for about five years in narcotics, and another four on night shift.
“In 2002, we worked narcotics together for five years, kicking doors and putting bad guys in jail,” Singleton said. “He was just a good guy. He’d be there for you if you needed him. He was always joking around, didn’t take life too seriously.”
Singleton recalls a time when he and Tanner had to wrestle with a man who was cooking methamphetamine.
“He was cooking some drugs in his house and we end up getting in a wrestling match with him, and we get him under control and we look at each other and we don’t have handcuffs,” he said. “I had to run to my car and get a set of handcuffs and come back. When we finally get him in custody, Tanner asked, ‘You got a radio?’ I said no and had to run back to the car to get a radio to tell them we had one in custody.”
Singleton also recalled a time when Tanner was the target of a practical joke, orchestrated by himself and Capt. Kevin Morris.
“He (Tanner) was always sensitive about anybody touching the things on his desk,” Singleton said. “We took this mouse we’d caught and placed it under his coffee cup. He comes in and he was irritated. He said, ‘Why did you guys touch my coffee cup?’ He picks up the cup and the mouse flies out onto him and crawls up his arm.”
Singleton said he spent hours and hours on surveillance with Tanner during their time in the Narcotics Unit.
“Rick was always in a good mood, always had a nice grin,” he said. “He was just a good, stand-up guy.”
Sgt. Justin Hodges also worked narcotics with Tanner for about three and a half years, with Tanner as his supervisor.
“He taught me a lot. I learned a lot from him,” Hodges said. “I looked up to him a lot when he was my boss. He always believed in me and always had my back.”
Those who worked with Tanner most recently on night shift remember how proud a father he was.
“He loved his kids. He was always talking about his kids,” said Officer Lee Frisendahl.
Sgt. Kevin Bezdicek said one of Tanner’s proudest moments was seeing his son Matthew score a touchdown this year.
“He said that was the proudest moment he had as a football dad,” Bezdicek said. “He smiled ear to ear when Matthew did that. He dreamed of his son going on to play for Enid High like he did.”
Bezdicek said Tanner always was willing to share his knowledge from narcotics enforcement, especially with teachers.
“He was big on going to those teacher-orientation meetings each year and teaching them about what gangs to look for and what prescription pills looked like and how kids acted if they were abusing them,” he said. “He got a real kick out of teaching that. It was always on his own time, too.”
Bezdicek said Tanner was “very proud” of his wife, Shawna, being named Enid Public Schools Teacher of the Year in 2011.
“He did everything he could anytime his wife needed something at school,” he said. “He was always there. He was a huge family guy. Nothing was more important than his wife and two kids.”
Lt. Warren Wilson said Tanner always was compassionate toward victims of crime.
“He was real attentive with victims. He was real dedicated to that,” Wilson said, noting the sergeant was willing to spend as much time as needed to make a victim comfortable.
Wilson said Tanner also shared his knowledge of narcotics enforcement with the officers on his shift.
“He taught the guys a lot of narcotics enforcement, which is really difficult,” he said. “Even after he left narcotics, he knew who all the players were in town.”
“He was a fun boss on nights. He always wanted to go out and find some dopers,” Officer Robert Fleer said. “He was always teaching me things because he was in narcotics for so long.”
The three recalled a story about Tanner from his time in training. One night, Tanner’s field training officer stopped him and said, “I’ve just been shot. What are you going to do?”
“It’s a test for the officer to see if they know where they are,” Wilson said. “It’s to see how they react under stress.”
The lieutenant said the exercise is meant to teach new officers to be aware of their surroundings so they can give their location over the radio in an emergency.
Bezdicek said Tanner reacted — just not in the way the FTO expected.
“He turned on the lights and sirens and took off,” he said. “They asked him, ‘What are you going to do?’ He said ‘I’m taking you to the hospital.’”
“No one had ever come up with anything like that before,” Wilson said with a laugh.
The three also said Tanner was never one to seek out credit.
“It was like he was never trying to get the credit for things,” Fleer said. “He just liked to see bad guys go to jail.”
Lt. Eric Holtzclaw, who also worked with Tanner on night shift, said he respected the sergeant’s passion for his work.
“What I really respected about him was he always wanted to get into the mix of things, he was very in tune with what was going on and wanted to be involved in various activities, especially dealing with identifying and arresting drug users and sources,” he said. “He wasn’t afraid to get involved.”
Holtzclaw described Tanner as a “down-to-earth guy.”
“He always carried a good demeanor and a good mood,” he said. “Despite any issues going around him, he never seemed to have a chip on his shoulder and always seemed to look at the positive side of things.”
Sgt. Quent Tubbs said he remembers Tanner speaking of the time he spent with his family.
“He would always talk about his boy. He would always talk about his daughter,” Tubbs said. “He was always open about his love for his family.”
Tubbs was on duty when Tanner died and made calls to notify other members of the department Saturday.
“I called people that day and it was like hitting them with a sledgehammer. It’s just a shock to everybody,” he said. “He was someone who was loved in the department. No one spoke ill of Tanner.
“He’ll be missed.”
The funeral for Tanner will be 2 p.m. Saturday at Oakwood Christian Church, 401 N. Oakwood. He will be laid to rest at Memorial Park Cemetery.
The funeral procession will leave from the church north to Willow, east onto Van Buren and north to Memorial Park Cemetery.
Funds have been established to assist the Tanner family.
An education fund at NBC Bank has been set up for Emily and Matthew. Contributions can be made to the Tanner Education Fund. Contributions also can be made at any Security National Bank location, to the Family of Police Officer Rick Tanner Fund.