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Murder Victim's Son Fulfills Dream To Become Police Officer

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SHAWNEE, Oklahoma -

It was three years ago that Rich Rider sat in a courtroom at the Pottawatomie County courthouse, and listened to the evidence against one of his father's killers

That experience helped reignite a deep seeded passion to become a police officer, and it was just this year that he became a full-time officer with the Shawnee Police Department.

“I chased this dream for quite a long time, and a little bit later in life than what some people have, and it’s worth every second!” said Rider.

Now, whenever Rider gets into his patrol car, he thinks back to when local law enforcement helped him and his family get through their darkest hour - the slaying of his father Albert.

“It gave me a desire to want to do that for someone else hopefully,” said Rider. “I may go my whole career with never getting that opportunity -  but that's what drives me.”

Albert Rider was only 53 years old and had just returned from his honeymoon when he was fatally shot on October 8, 2012. The deadly encounter happened after he confronted two of the three men responsible for a break-in at his home.

“He jumps out of his van, confronts them, and ends up getting into a fight with both of them. Then they pistol whip him,” recalls Richard Smothermon, the district attorney who prosecuted the murder case. “They jump into his van that is sitting on the side of the road and peel away.”

But Smothermon said Albert Rider refused to let them get away, and jumped on the back of the van to try to stop them from leaving.

“One of them starts shooting out the window, ends up shooting Albert Rider in the hand,” said Smothermon. “So, now he's been beaten down, jumped on the back of a van and been shot, and he still persists in fighting with them.”

The DA said the case left a profound impact on him. Especially after he found out that Albert Rider was the kind of man who always tried to help people. And then he found out one of the suspects used to work for Rider and was even helped by him at one time.

Smothermon said he even went to Rider’s funeral – but he says he had no idea then the bond he would forge with Rider’s son Rich, and how that bond would continue to grow and strengthen through the trial and beyond.

In the end, James Isaac South was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.

Michael Preston Choate would plead guilty to second degree murder, conspiracy, and second degree burglary and was sentenced to 35 years, with 10 of those years to be served in prison.

Bradley A. Keith was the third suspect and was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison for charges he faced relating to the case.

Albert Rider left behind a wife, a son and two daughters. He also left behind eight grandchildren, two of which he never had the chance to meet.

“But out of that tragedy so much good has come from it you know” said Smothermon. “The good that is Rich Rider - who is now a police officer with the Shawnee Police Department - who left a high paying job to serve the public because of his involvement with this case. And what he felt his call from God was! I mean those don't happen in every case!”

Rich Rider said at first all he wanted to do was join the reserves, but it was the encouragement from his wife and Smothermon that lead him to chase his dream of becoming a full-time officer.

“I tried and I'm here and I love it - absolutely love it,” said Rider.

The one message Rider has for everyone out there is to never give up on your passion. And he says he knows his father would be proud of the decision he made.

“I truly believe that he'd be really happy and proud,” said Rider.

But one man who is also proud is Smothermon, who now considers Rider not just a fellow law enforcement official, not just a crime victim but a friend.

“Rich Rider and I are forever going to be intertwined,” said Smothermon. “We're always going to have those moments that only he and I have because of God - the things that happened in that case can only be explained by God. It’s going to truly make him one of the great ones.”

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