Ron Ohren coached basketball at Norman County West High School in Halstad, Minn., for 13 years and had Cody Holte on the court for four of them. When he heard a Grand Forks police officer had been shot Wednesday, May 27, he was saddened, but didn't give it more than a passing concern.
When he found out it was Holte, he sat in his chair and didn't move for a half-hour - that was the kind of gut-punch it was, he said.
"I can honest to God say that," he said. "It's just one of those things, it gets to you and you can't believe it. It just seemed like a bad dream, or a bad movie or whatever, and you're watching and you're going to wake up in the morning, and say, 'Oh, that didn't happen,' but that wasn't the case."
Holte was killed by gunfire in a south Grand Forks apartment Wednesday, May 27, responding to a call for assistance made by Grand Forks County Sheriff's deputies. He is the second Grand Forks law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty, and the first to die in more than 50 years.
A funeral for Holte will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Visitation will be held beforehand, from 10 a.m. to noon. Both the visitation and funeral service will be open to the public. The event will be held in accordance with public health guidelines, and attendees are encouraged to be mindful of social distancing. Holte will then be laid to rest in Augustana Cemetery near Halstad, Minn.
"We’d like to thank the community for the overwhelming outpouring of support." Holte's family said in an emailed statement. "The messages, well-wishes and prayers for Cody and our family are a source of comfort in this time of sadness and grief. We also appreciate the media’s and the public’s respect for our privacy. Cody was an incredible husband, father, son, brother, uncle, police officer and soldier. The list could go on and on. The impact he had on his family, friends and colleagues was immense and he will be missed dearly."
Aside from the statement, made available by the North Dakota National Guard, Holte's family has requested space to grieve before publicly telling his story. But after Ohren overcame the initial shock of hearing the news, he said he knew he wanted to tell the world about Holte.
He said 2009-2010, the year he had Holte and his twin brother, Brady, on the varsity team as seniors, is still one of his favorite years of coaching, due in no small part to the Holte brothers. He remembered Holte as one of the hardest-working players he's coached.
"Oh, geez, him and his brother both - Cody and Brady, they were the nicest, most respectful, most polite guys you'd ever want to meet," Ohren said. "The kind of guys you'd want your own son to be like, or your daughter to go out with, or whatnot. Just hardworking and respectful and very polite."
Ohren didn't just know Holte from the basketball team. Ohren, a native of the tight-knit Norman County community, knew the Holte family before Cody was born and recalls watching him grow up. When he did get Holte on the team as a ninth-grader, Ohren recalled that he was the player who, after every other player had tired of running drills and doing conditioning, wanted to run more to get in the best shape he could.
After Holte left Norman County to pursue a criminal justice and military education in Moorhead, Ohren said he continued to see him around Hendrum and Halstad when he came home to visit occasionally. Over the years, he said Holte hasn't changed much.
"He's the same old guy, same smile on his face," Ohren said. "Always going, 'Hey coach, how you doin',' just one of those guys who makes you proud to know him. There's still so much respect there, him for me and me for him that just makes you feel good as a coach, and a parent, and a person. But he was the same old kid, just smiling, got that grin on his face, and getting married, and having a child; you could tell he was going on to do some great things."
The Grand Forks Police Department has announced the creation of a memorial fund for Holte, called the Cody Holte Memorial Fund. The fund is located at First State Bank on 32nd Avenue South in Grand Forks and is only accessible to members of Holte's family.
Another memorial fund has been created for Holte on the online fundraising platform GoFundMe. At the time of writing, nearly $73,000 has been raised by more than 1,200 donors since the fund’s creation last week. The fundraiser, organized by longtime friends of the Holte family, initially set a goal of $60,000, which has been updated to $75,000.
The Herald's Adam Kurtz contributed to this report.