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Park Ranger Joseph David Kolodski | United States Department of the Interior - National Park Service, U.S. Government United States Department of the Interior - National Park Service, U.S. Government

Park Ranger

Joseph David Kolodski

United States Department of the Interior - National Park Service, U.S. Government

End of Watch: Sunday, June 21, 1998

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 36

Tour: 13 years

Badge # 874

Cause: Gunfire

Location: North Carolina

Weapon: Rifle; 7.62 mm

Offender: Sentenced to life

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Ranger Joseph Kolodski was shot and killed after responding to a report of a man with a rifle threatening visitors at the Big Witch Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. He was ambushed and shot as he was stepping out of his patrol car. Ranger Kolodski was the first officer on the scene and had driven past the suspect before radioing to another ranger to stay out of sight until they could work out a plan. He then returned and began to exit his vehicle when he was shot.

Another ranger then arrived at the scene and was fired at before the suspect fled into the woods. Ranger Kolodski was flown to a hospital in Tennessee where he was pronounced dead. The suspect in the shooting was arrested approximately four hours later by a tribal game warden on the neighboring Cherokee Indian Reservation.

The suspect was sentenced to mandatory life without parole and is being held financially responsible for loss of future income to Ranger Kolodski's family.

Ranger Kolodski had served with the National Park Service for 13 years and was an officer safety and defensive tactics instructor for the agency. He is survived by his wife and three children.

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Our thoughts and prayers are with Joe's family, wife, children, friends, and fellow GRSM & BRP LE rangers on this day as well as throughout the year while wearing the National Park Service law enforcement ranger uniform. 18 years ago while working at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Halls Crossing Ranger Station, Lake Powell, Utah); while observing the Ranger Station flag being lowered to half-mast, I asked Sub-District Supervisor LE Ranger Russ Miller what had happened. I remember him saying "Ranger Joe Kolodski at Great Smoky Mountains National Park was killed in the line of duty by a gunman." It was the first time during the early years of my NPS LE career that a fellow NPS LE Ranger was killed in the line of duty. A year later on June 21, 1999 while patrolling the Blue Ridge Parkway (out of the Fancy Gap, VA office) the BRP dispatch center notified all employees that there would be a moment of silence in honor of Ranger Joe Kolodski. It was a powerful moment to be working at the Blue Ridge Parkway on the first anniversary. Every year since on June 21st, I reflect on the ultimate sacrifice made by National Park Ranger Joe Kolodski on Father's Day 1998 along the Blue Ridge Parkway. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, wife, and children. He will always be remembered and we will keep his memory alive with the younger generation of National Park law enforcement rangers starting their NPS LE career.

NPS LE Ranger, Kevin Kavanagh
National Park Service, Minute Man National Historical Park, MA
June 21, 2016


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