NORMAN — On the same Sunday afternoon that the nation bid farewell to President John F. Kennedy, Norman police officers said goodbye to one of their own.
Lt. Jerry Bratcher, a 29-year-old police detective, died in a crash on Old No. 9 highway (now Alameda Avenue).
Bratcher was returning from a stolen vehicle investigation on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 24, when a car driven by a 19-year-old Norman man turned in front of him. A 20-year-old OU student, Gerald Wesley Byram, was a passenger in the 19-year-old’s car. Byram and Bratcher died at St. Anthony Hospital. The driver and a passenger in Bratcher’s car were injured.
Bratcher became the first Norman police officer to die in the line of duty. Other local peace officers had died but they were county deputies. Since then, two other Norman police officers — Melvin Miner and Dale DeBerry — have died in the line of duty.
Norman police officers will take note of Bratcher’s 1963 death by wearing specially designed lapel pins on their uniforms for the year beginning Nov. 1. Bratcher’s family included his wife, a son and two daughters. Lt. Bratcher’s grandson, Jeremy Bratcher, became a Norman police officer in 2009.
The pin will be a replica of Bratcher’s badge with his “end of watch” date of Nov. 24, 1963.
“It looks like his badge.”
Police Sgt. Tim Smith said fellow officers are looking forward to wearing the pins. No officer serving today served with Bratcher. Many retired officers remember him.
“I think they’re getting excited about it. The closest one that any of us remember is Dale (DeBerry) who died on Dec. 1, 1998.”
The department ordered 200 of the commemorative pins for officers and another batch to sell for the memorial fund. Smith reached out to the family of the OU student killed in the crash. He plans to send them a pin and newspaper reports of the crash.
All fallen officers will be honored in May but the 50th anniversary of the first death is special, Smith said.
“We always say we will never forget them,” said Smith. “So this will remind us that we really never forget.”