Headliners & Scrapbook


Early stories of the Dickinson Police Department are hard to find, but one officer in particular has caught our attention. Thanks to microfilm archive from The Dickinson Press, we have learned that DPD once employed a determined, and rather fearsome, nightwatchman in the early 1910s. His name was T.B. “Thomas” McDonough, and served as nightwatchman for Dickinson from 1914 until the early 1930s. He was an Irishman who once worked on the railroad, and did his policing duties with only one arm as the result of a railroad accident. Continue reading below to learn about this determined peacekeeper.     In the early 1900s, Dickinson was an emerging western town on the banks of the Heart River. The railroad helped establish it as an oasis in the prairie, and many began calling it home. The first official police service was created in 1899 when 34-year-old Robert Craig was elected by citizens as the village marshal. He served until the following year, when citizens formally designated Dickinson a “city”, and hired its first Chief of Police – Joseph McCoul. In 1902, John M. Carroll was hired as Chief of Police for the following two years. In 1904, Patrick Corbett began a lengthy career as Chief of Police. He was a native of Green Bay, WI and was previously employed by the Northern Pacific Railroad. As the town grew, city elders decided to hire a “Nightwatchman” to assist Chief Corbett during the evening hours. The first Nightwatchmen of this era were Joseph P. Carroll and Ole Tollefson. Then on September 12th, 1914, T.B. McDonough began his employment as Dickinson’s sole Nightwatchman.... read more


The year 2009 was truly a trying year for both the department and the City of Dickinson. However, after each event, the community pulled together and proved this is one of the greatest parts of the nation to live and work. On the evening of July 8th, 2009, Dickinson’s southside was struck by an EF3 tornado. The destruction left behind was immense, but by some miracle, no one was killed or seriously injured. Citizens picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and helped each other rebuild. Around 8:10 PM, the Dickinson Regional Communication Center began receiving calls of a possible funnel cloud just west of the city. The outdoor warning sirens had been activated several minutes prior to this, as the NWS was detecting rotation in the cell headed for town. As the minutes passed, the types of calls being received in the dispatch center became more serious. At 8:14 PM, dispatch received a 911 call stating a roof had been blown off an apartment complex by a tornado on the southwest side of town. Patrol units, who had been monitoring the storm’s progress from areas within the city, were immediately dispatched to the area. The dashcam video from one of the units is linked below.In the days leading up to the evening of July 8th, the National Weather Service conducted a conference call with Stark County Emergency Manager Brent Pringle. The NWS meteorologists explained they were forecasting a potential outbreak of several weather with a high likelihood of tornado formations over the southwest portion of North Dakota. According to Mr. Pringle, this was the first such conference call the... read more


On November 9th 1981, Dickinson was the scene of a grizzly murder. The scene; The Swanson Motel, 746 West Villard. The victims; 53-year-old Priscilla Dinkel and her 7-year-old grand-daughter, Danelle Lietz. Their killer; William Reager. The Swanson murders drew national attention among the law enforcement community, mainly because the case had gone “cold” and a suspect wasn’t named for nearly 10 years. That changed in 1991 when a new tool, an “FBI profile”, was given to law enforcement and a killer was brought to justice. Police Chief Chuck Rummel, who in 1981 was a Patrolman, was one of the first called to the motel. Rummel described the murders as eerie. Dinkel was found face down in the office lobby of the motel. Her hands had been bound with an electrical cord and she had suffered a blow to the head by a blunt object. Her granddaugther, Danelle Lietz, was in the office sleeping quarters. Lietz was found unbound on the bed, but evidence suggested she had been tied up at one point. Rummel said that he can still remember what the two were wearing; Dinkel in a blue nightgown and Lietz in Strawberry Shortcake pajamas. To make matters worse, there was evidence suggesting sexual contact was made by the killer between Dinkel and Lietz.Priscilla Dinkel, a Crystal native, moved to Dickinson 3 months prior to the murders to manage the Swanson Motel. A majority of the tenants at the motel were oil field and energy laborers working the 1980 oil boom in southwest North Dakota. The police were called to the motel only a handfull of times during this... read more


Acting on a tip from Hazen police, Dickinson Police arrested several individuals suspected of burglarizing a Hazen drug store. On August 22nd, 1964 around 4:30 a.m., a burglar alarm at the Hazen Drug Store was activated. The Highway Patrol spotted two vehicles bearing out-of-state plates leaving the scene. Each vehicle was occupied by three individuals. The Highway Patrol pursued one of the vehicles on an 18-mile chase. Two of the passengers jumped out before the vehicle stopped and were picked up by the second vehicle. The second vehicle was able to sneak past police. The driver of the first vehicle was arrested. The Highway Patrol searched the vehicle and found a matchbook from the Home Terrace Motel in Dickinson. They also located ammunition for a handgun. A statewide broadcast was issued for agencies to be on the lookout for the second vehicle. It was quickly located at the Home Terrace Motel. Nearly a dozen officers converged on the motel later that day. They arrested five men without incident. During a search of their belongings, officers recovered three .38 caliber pistols, three two-way radios, knives, and burglary tools. All five were charged with illegal possession of pistols and were held on bond. One of the men, Tom Smith of Tulsa, OK, had an outstanding warrant for his arrest out of Tulsa for burglary.   UPPER LEFT : Police arrest three Oklahoma men for suspected burglary of a Hazen drug store. A tip led them to the Home Terrace Motel on West Villard. Patrolman Don Ehli (right) looks on.UPPER RIGHT : Dickinson Police escort the burglars to police cars. In the... read more


On February 9th, 1962, several individuals were arrested by the US Secret Service and Dickinson PD after a 5-week-long investigation into a counterfeiting ring. The “hub” of the half-million dollar operation, one of the biggest uncovered in the Upper Midwest, was based right here in Dickinson. The investigation started in Washington state with the arrest of Allen Therriault and Carol Sanders. The two were arrested after attempting to pass another couple’s name at a Seattle bank. Sanders was in possession of counterfeit $20 and $100 bills. They “rolled over” and gave the name of a Billings man, Jack Lande. Lande was arrested in Billings for his connection in the counterfeiting ring. The US Secret Service interviewed him and was told that Bernard Gangl, a former Dickinson resident and 1950 graduate of the Central High School, was the head of the operations. Gangl was residing in Casper, WY at the time. He was arrested a short time later. Secret Service Agents Robert Dowling and Arthur Blake accompanied Gangl to Dickinson, where he showed them the house his ring was using. The house, which is no longer standing, was located at 746 Aldrich ST. It had been in the Gangl family for many years, but had abandoned in the previous 10 years. The house had no running water, but did have electricity and lights. Paper covered the window, as to disguise the happenings within. Police raided the house and found two of Gangl’s associates within. They were arrested without incident. No furniture or regular house furnishings were located inside. Police did find photography equipment and a stolen printing press from Billings.... read more


The City of Dickinson has also been subject to several large structure fires in its history. Two of those, both occurring within a year of each other, nearly ignited the entire downtown area on both occasions. One fire resulted in the death of a Dickinson resident, and both fires were deemed to be arson. Villard Hotel Fire – January 20th, 1949 The City of Dickinson was peacefully at rest on a bitterly cold morning of January 20th, 1949. Overnight duties at the Villard Hotel were proceeding as normal. The three-story hotel, which stood in the 10 blk of West Villard near present-day Greene Drug, was only hours away from total ruin. Shortly after two o’clock in the morning, a pastry chef at the Villard Hotel began to smell smoke coming from the basement of the hotel. It did not take long for the fire to quickly spread and engulf the basement. Hotel guests, many clad in just pajamas, grabbed their belongings and evacuated into the frigid temperatures outside. Of the 57 guests, one happened to be Trooper Hollis Dietz; a highway patrolman from Beach who was staying in town. Trooper Dietz, along with hotel employees, are credited with the quick and orderly evacuation of guests. As the morning progressed, the fire continued to spread and worsen. The 20 below zero weather and strong northeast winds hampered firefighting efforts. Large sparks and flaming pieces of wood began landing on adjacent buildings, setting them ablaze. Fireman braved the dangers of treacherous, ice-covered roofs to suppress the flames and prevent further loss. Police Officer Matt Zabel and Joe Faller assisted in rescue... read more


ABOVE : Newscast of mock car accident – 1994 & 2000 Teen Action Group and DPD.


ABOVE : SGT Joe Faller (left), Patrolman Merle Bacon (center), and a Highway Patrol trooper chat with citizens in downtown Dickinson (1957). Footage courtesy of the late Thomas J. Binek and the Binek Family.


ABOVE : Patrolman Matt Zabel walks the parade route during the 4th of July parade in downtown Dickinson (1947). Footage courtesy of the late Thomas J. Binek and the Binek Family.