When Grand Forks Police Officer Cody Holte swore an oath three years ago to protect the city of Grand Forks, he likely knew there would be challenging days. That's why he wore a medallion around his neck bearing a favorite Bible verse: Philippians 4:13.
"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength," his uncle, Anthony Carter, quoted at Holte's funeral, held Tuesday, June 2, at the Ralph Engelstad arena in Grand Forks. “Cody wore that on his neck for a reason because somewhere, somehow he knew his days as a police officer would be difficult, and that his days as a police officer would be dangerous. So he approached each day wearing God’s promise around his neck.
Hundreds of people – including members of the public, elected officials, clergy, law enforcement and military – gathered at the Ralph Tuesday to honor Holte, who was killed in the line of duty Wednesday, May 27. In a sermon given by Pastor Lynn Ronsberg of Sharon Lutheran Church, she recalled that the warm day he died felt like the first day of summer. But, Ronsberg said, it soon turned to winter in its emotional coldness.
Two Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office deputies were dispatched to an apartment in south Grand Forks that day for what started as a routine service of eviction papers. Police say the tenant, Salamah Pendleton, opened fire on the deputies with an AK-47. When the deputies called for assistance, Holte was one of two Grand Forks police officers to respond.
“We honor Cody as someone who is willing to run toward danger versus run away from it,” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said during Tuesday's ceremony. “Last Wednesday, he knew fellow officers had already been fired upon, and he knew the apartment left him exposed to gunfire. But he went in anyway.”
Holte was shot three times. Officers gave him emergency care at the apartment before carrying him outside to an ambulance, and he was transported to Altru Hospital. He was pronounced dead on arrival.
He is survived by his wife of four years, Amanda; his 10-month-old son; his parents; his sister and twin brother, who is an officer in Fargo; and a large extended family.
In addition to Carter and Burgum, speakers at the ceremony included Grand Forks Police Chief Mark Nelson, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, North Dakota National Guard Maj. Ryan Schulz and Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann. Some speakers knew Holte well, and others have only gotten to know about him in the days since his death. But each of their addresses painted a picture of a quiet, polite man who loved God, his family, being a dad, days at the lake and a good joke. Holte believed in serving his community – both as a law enforcement offer and National Guardsman – so that others wouldn't have to.
Carter said it has long been clear to those who knew him that Holte was special. Carter, a former longtime Connecticut State Trooper, used to help hold Connecticut State Police Youth Week, a week-long recruitment and training program for teens. Holte and his brother decided they wanted to do it during their junior year of high school.
Their uncle warned them that the training was no summer camp, and that the program was designed to be intense. The brothers, intensely competitive and always up for a challenge, were not discouraged.
Carter recalled that the brothers found the training to be every bit as difficult as he had promised. But at the end of the week, Holte was recognized with the highest leadership award that could be earned at the camp.
"I never thought I was a leader," Carter recalled Holte saying to him afterward. "And I said, ‘Oh, young man, how wrong you are."
Holte's obituary credited Connecticut State Police Youth Week as the turning point in his life when he discovered his passion for leading, serving and protecting. He graduated from Norman County West High School in Minnesota in 2010 and went on to complete basic training and become a military engineer for the North Dakota National Guard. He studied criminal justice, sociology and military science at Minnesota State University Moorhead and graduated in 2015. Afterward, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and at the time of his death was a first lieutenant in the North Dakota National Guard. He began his career in law enforcement with the Grand Forks Police Department in 2017.
Nelson said he and Holte formed a close bond in part by sharing baby photos – Nelson of his grandson and Holte of his newborn. He recalled Holte as a friend to all, with a grin that could brighten anyone's day. But more important, he said Holte was a cop's cop, whose heart was bigger than his courage, and who had passion and an unwavering dedication for protecting and serving his community.
When Holte was on duty, Nelson said there was never any need to worry.
After his death, Holte was awarded with the Woody Keeble Award, which honors North Dakota National Guard soldiers who display courage, and determination to protect life, limb or property. After the ceremony, he was interred at Augustana Church Cemetery near his hometown of Halstad, Minn.
"Rest in peace, Cody," Nelson said. "We've got it from here."