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Grand Forks police chief opens up about loss of Officer Holte, moving forward

Grand Forks Police Chief Mark Nelson says there is a hole in his department that can never be filled.

GRAND FORKS — "I've cried more in the past few months than I have in years," said Grand Forks Police Chief Mark Nelson.

He said it has been a difficult two and a half months as he tries to guide his department through this tragedy. There's been a lot of mental health monitoring as officers continue their mission of keeping Grand Forks safe.

"(We're) not stigmatizing anyone who was having a problem with it. If they needed the time off, we didn't set a time frame; it was when you feel like you are ready (to return)," he explained.

Nelson has been with the Grand Forks Police Department since 1988. May 27 was the only day in his career when all 109 members of the department were called back to the station. The chief delivered the news in the basement of the police department.

"Full admission: I couldn't keep it together. It was a very emotional moment. As a leader, you can't forget you are a human being as well," Nelson said.


Even though more than two months have passed, the chief said there are days it seemed like badge #639 is still there to protect and serve. Officer Holte's #13 cruiser is still used for daily patrols.

"There's still the mailbox with his badge number on it, or just the other day one of my officers was at the public service center and went to log in to a computer, and the last person to use that computer, being it was a common use computer, was his name that popped up. Those little reminders can be kind of stingy," Nelson said.

He misses the daily banter with Holte. He said the 29-year-old was an easy hire for him. He was a devout Christian, a family man, a member of the North Dakota National Guard just like him.

There was one other thing that separated him from the other applicants.

"You could be the best shot, the fastest driver, you can be everything, but that 'it' factor, being able to put someone to ease in the public, being able to be a person outside of being a cop, that was Cody," Nelson said.

He said Holte was a true example of the nobility of being a police officer.

"Without even thinking, officers went in to where gunfire was — instead of going away from it — in order to help fellow law enforcement officers in need. If that's not inspiration for you as a younger officer, then maybe you need to look for a new profession, because I don't know if I want you working for me," Nelson said.

Officers know how important it is to be out on the streets, which he said has helped them in the healing process.


"He was always looking to improve, so the best honor we can give Cody is go out and do what we do everyday and continue to improve on it and honor his legacy," Nelson said.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at mhenson@wday.com and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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