By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Eleven-year-old Thomas Michael Rutherford didn't want to make Kool-Aid for his dad.
Playing Xbox with his father, his best friend in the whole world, Thomas fully intended to win a best two-out-of-three series while playing the Golden State Warriors against his dad's beloved Sacramento Kings.
"The winner didn't have to make the Kool-Aid," Thomas said.
Thomas did not know that the good-natured competition on the night of May 29 would be the last time he ever saw his father.
Shortly after 10 p.m., Blaine County sheriff's deputy Joshua Rutherford was called from home to respond to a domestic disturbance not far from where he lived. Promising to return and finish the game with his son, deputy Rutherford left his house and answered the call.
He would not return to his family that night.
While attempting to arrest a suspect in a field near mile marker 425 along U.S. Highway 2, deputy Joshua Raven Chief Thomas Rutherford was shot to death. He left behind a wife and four sons.
Lawrence Dean Jackson Jr., 25, of Harlem has been charged with deliberate homicide in connection with the shooting.
"Josh was an exceptional person," his mother, Maxine Magpie Clifford of Denver, said this week in an interview at his home. "He was very kind. He was my absolute best friend. One of the best things about him was his sense of humor. He had the ability to laugh at whatever happened."
Clifford said one of her favorite memories spawned from an argument she had with her son when he was 11 years old. After chastising Josh for continuing to interrupt a cribbage game, she sent him to his room, Clifford said.
"He got all they way to the top of the stairs and turned around," she said. "He came back down and looked at me and said, 'When you get old I'm gonna stick you in a nursing home.'"
Rutherford was born in Denver. He lived there until his freshman year in high school when he moved to Harlem with his family.
"He was an excellent student," Clifford said. "I think in all his years he only got one D. He was very articulate."
Rutherford played basketball his freshman year because his mom would not let him play football for fear he would be hurt. The next year his father convinced her that she should let him play, Clifford said, and for the next three years he did. He gave up basketball for wrestling and graduated in 1993.
Rutherford never lost his love for the Denver Broncos, his mother said. He loved them unconditionally, she said, and so much that his casket was adorned with a Broncos cap and Thomas spoke at his funeral wearing the jersey of quarterback Brian Griese.
The summer after graduating Rutherford married Roberta King and the couple had two sons, Thomas and Joshua, 6. Although the couple got divorced, they remained close, King said.
In 1999 Rutherford married Jennifer Johnson, with whom he had two sons, Matthew, 4, and Michael, 1.
His sons were his life, his mom said.
"He was the absolute best dad. He wanted his kids to have the best dad possible. They did everything together," she said.
To honor his first son, Rutherford had "Thomas" tattooed on his leg, a symbol of his love. The two were inseparable. Just a big kid himself, Rutherford did everything his sons did, playing video games, jumping on the trampoline, playing football, Clifford said.
"I had people come up to me and say Josh had inspired them to be a good dad after seeing him play with his sons," she said. "He set an example."
Rutherford knew from a young age that he would enter law enforcement, Clifford said.
"Josh wanted to be a police officer since he was 8," she said. "That was his chosen field. He enjoyed making this place safe for others."
Rutherford became a detention officer in Hill County before he was hired by the Harlem Police Department. After only three months on the job he was appointed as chief of police. In 2000, the Harlem Police Department combined with the Blaine County Sheriff's Office and Rutherford became a deputy.
Rutherford graduated from the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, where he continued to teach defensive tactics. Clifford recalled how disappointed her son was after he did not pass the academy's physical training test the first time out.
"He missed it by two seconds," she said. "He ran that whole summer, and he ran it in record time. He worked hard to get back in control again. Josh was very competitive."
Rutherford was proud to be a deputy, his mother said. He was one of four people in his immediate family to enter law enforcement. His father, Mike Matthews, works for the Roosevelt County Sheriff's Office. His brother became a police officer in Wolf Point, and his sister is a Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.
In the tradition of his father, grandfather, aunt and uncle, Thomas said that one day he, too, will wear a badge.
Clifford said she supports his decision.
"We all choose what we want to be and Thomas has already said he wants to be police officer," she said. "The thing about my son is that he died doing what he loved. He got to do what he wanted. That's my saving grace, that Josh died doing what he loved."
"Josh didn't meet strangers," she added. "He made friends."