Park Ranger Joseph David Kolodski

Park Ranger Joseph David Kolodski

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

End of Watch Sunday, June 21, 1998

Joseph David Kolodski

Park 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.


  • Age 36
  • Tour 13 years
  • Badge 874

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Location North Carolina
  • Weapon Rifle; 7.62 mm
  • Offender Sentenced to life

weapons violation

Most Recent Reflection

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I was lucky to have worked with Joe at the Smokies as a fellow LEO and value the friendship we shared as a result. My late husband Keith was one of the rangers who witnessed Joe's murder, and we were forever changed by the event and his death.
You are not forgotten, Joe, and will always be thought of with love, smiles, and gratitude.

Cathy Nelson
former NPS ranger

June 20, 2017

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