Jim & Rita McGrane
FEATURED IN LIFELINE TRAINING
More than 400 LEOs attended our Ultimate Survival Instincts Seminar in Albuquerque, N.M., on March 12 and 13, 2012. Among the crowd we found officers with more than 40 years of experience, rookies with less than 12 months on the job and even two separate academy classes (Albuquerque PD and Bernalillo County). We had detectives, SWAT, narcotics, patrol officers and motor cops, as well as sheriffs, chiefs, commanders and sergeants. Representation came from federal, state, county and local jurisdictions. Hell, we even had the governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, a huge supporter of law enforcement, as an opening speaker.
There were also volunteers; some as young as 19 and others were more than a few decades older. There were sponsors, raffles, well-wishers and relatives of LEOs. There were awards given and prizes won. There were books, shirts, hats and sweatshirts for sale. Every component made for an unforgettable experience.
But, none of the aforementioned—as much as they were appreciated for being in attendance, volunteering and showing their efforts and support—are as collectively impressive as the two people that made it all happen. The two people that took a tragedy of the worst kind and made it into a legacy that will live on for years to come. A legacy of officer safety that will be directly responsible for saving officers’ lives in their son’s name. Those two people are Jim and Rita McGrane.
The story of their son Jimmy has been told countless times by the McGranes, as well as by those who knew him best.
Jimmy was taken from his parents shortly after midnight on March 22, 2006, on a rural highway in Bernalillo County, New Mexico. He had been with the sheriff's office for almost five years when he made a traffic stop on Highway 337. No one knows for sure why the deputy made the stop, but what’s known is that Michael Astorga shot Jimmy in the head with a 10 mm Glock handgun. Police eventually caught and convicted Astorga and the case, legally, had closure and an ending. But that end was just the beginning for Jimmy’s parents.
Jim and Rita wanted justice. They wanted to see their son’s murderer taken off the street, held accountable and punished. They wanted their pain to go away. They wanted the right to feel anger. But, they immediately realized they wanted something more—something much more.
Rita explained it to me this way: “I felt God’s presence the whole time. I felt, right away, that he wanted us to do something about this; about officers getting killed in this way. I felt this so strongly the very same week of Jimmy’s death. During the pain and anger and the planning and the grief, the very week we buried Jimmy, I felt God and his purpose for us. It was so strong and so clear.”
I asked Rita how she could possibly feel this calling during the worst of all times. “I didn’t want to stay behind closed doors and cry. Among the pain and tears, God was calling me. I was still hurt and in pain, but I knew he had a plan. We had things to do, to get through, but I knew we also now had work to do,” she said.
We then talked about her faith. “Bad things happen to good people. The question is what do you do afterward? You do good things. I was angry. I wanted to fight. But our fight became helping the good guys to do better—to be safe. I want to do something to help law enforcement so this never happens again. That’s what God wants us to do.”
An article about faith wasn’t the angle I planned when I sat down to write this article. But a few minutes on the phone with Rita and all that changed. She took the most horrific of events and not only did she survive, she and Jim thrived because of her faith.
“Anyone who doesn’t believe that God exists and doesn’t have him in their lives, well, I just don’t know how they have a balance in their life. Our faith is important because God is in our lives. Before this happened, I thought I could never survive the loss of one of my children. But I have survived. God has a purpose for everyone—you just have to listen. Our purpose now is to do something about Jimmy’s death in a positive way. Our purpose is to try and make sure this doesn’t happen to other parents and families of police officers.
“God always has a way to help you. God gives you the strength. I wasn’t like this. I never spoke in public, but this is what God wants us to do; I’m sure of it. People are now coming to us to represent them and to fight for the right thing and against the criminals. We speak for all the parents who have lost sons and daughters. We will do this forever.”
Free Officer Safety Training
Six years ago, the McGranes started to offer free officer safety training. On the first year, around 300 police officers showed up. The McGranes paid for the venue, the handout material and the training. They raised money by running raffles, getting sponsors and mostly, by getting up and making pancakes.
This year was my fourth time as one of the two instructors presenting to the officers. What an honor on so many levels. The reviews were great, the camaraderie was great, the raffle response was great, the attendees were great and the VIPs who opened the seminar were great. But as great as they all were, we all, paled in comparison to the two people who greeted the attendees, who sold t-shirts at the back table, who worked for this seminar all year long.
Great isn’t a big enough word to describe the experience of meeting and working alongside Jim and Rita. Two unassuming, humble people with God and their son in their hearts turn the most unimaginable tragedy into something good.
If you get the opportunity to meet Jim and Rita, I implore you to take a few minutes with them. They won’t preach, they won’t lecture. They certainly won’t talk about how hard they work. Just watch and listen. You’ll immediately be family—you’ll be somebody that matters. Because you, as an LEO, are their mission. They ask nothing from you. They merely want to give everything they have to our profession. In fact they already have.
To support the McGrane’s efforts or if you’re simply interested in letting them know how much you appreciate them, check out their website at www.deputymcgrane.com.