Prosecutor has a wild law-enforcement past

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Kenneth "Rusty" Park 

What do terrorist-attack response, multimillion-dollar drug busts and undercover infiltration of motorcycle gangs have in common?

No, they’re not part of a script for a new television show — they are past responsibilities of Flathead County Deputy Attorney Kenneth “Rusty” Park before he moved to Kila with his wife and daughter.

Park, now 45, was born in 1966 in Lubbock, Texas to Jerry and Susie Park.

“I say I was born on Mars,” Park now says, jokingly, of the Lubbock landscape. “Texas Tech is a cool campus, but I don’t miss Lubbock.”

His family moved to Dallas in 1975, when his father got a job as a sportscaster. His mother worked as a teacher, eventually teaching at all levels, including the collegiate level.

Park’s own career started when he joined the Oklahoma City Police Department as a patrol officer in 1988. He was promoted to sergeant after a little more than four years.

Then came the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh. In his duties with the police department, Park responded as a rescuer on its emergency response team.

“We spent 17 days picking up the pieces, I guess would be the best way to put that,” Park said.

But the work that would pique Park’s interest and be the driving force for the rest of his career didn’t begin until the following year, when he went undercover as part of a street-level narcotics “impact unit.”

“THAT WAS PROBABLY the funnest part of my career, that was a blast to be in,” Park said. “It was a constant run-and-gun, drug raid, chase people. That was a great part of my career.”

Park was one of seven people on the Oklahoma City team, which spent 99 percent of its time dealing with drug crimes. His participation on that team led to an assignment to the Drug Enforcement Administration through the special projects unit of the police department in 1999.

According to Park, one of the main reasons for working with the drug agency was access to funds. Because it was part of the federal government, it had the resources to make larger drug buys and thus larger busts that made a bigger impact.

It was while he was working undercover with the agency that Park would begin one of the defining works of his career.

He had started making buys from a member of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (now the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), took notice.

“Shortly after that we had a meeting, and my supervisor at Oklahoma City was contacted by the ATF because I guess they had monitored a couple of these buys,” Park said. “So we all sat down, a fella from ATF, me from DEA and a guy from the Oklahoma City special projects unit, my supervisor there, and decided, ‘Hey, let’s combine our efforts and see what we can do.’”

That meeting led to the creation of a motorcycle gang task force with Park, among others, being tasked with infiltrating the Outlaws.

So Park grew his hair out, grew a long beard, got a Harley Davidson motorcycle — courtesy of the bureau — and spent his working hours undercover for four years.

At the end of the investigation, Park’s work contributed to the arrest of 84 Outlaws members and to the club pulling its chapter out of Oklahoma.

Park and others involved later received the Investigation of the Year Award from the International Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association.

Park’s partner in infiltrating the Outlaws, Allen “Big Al” Chute, retired about three months ago and is writing a book about the investigation.

IN 2004, PARK started taking night classes in law school, and after a little more than a year of further undercover work was assigned back to the drug agency as the lead investigator for the new Central Oklahoma Metro Interdiction Team.

The team focused most of its attention on one area in the center of the city where Interstates 35, 40 and 44 cross. Some call the confluence the “crossroads of America,” but Park knew it as one of the most active drug trafficking crossroads in the country.

Park and the other members of the team tracked drugs moving north and money moving south through the interchanges, and completed many large busts, among them the seizure of $3.5 million from a single stop.

“We used the proceeds we recovered from that that they gave back to us to buy a money counter, because it took seven of us 12 hours to count that cash,” Park said. “It was terrible.”

In 2008, Park graduated from law school and went back to the Drug Enforcement Administration, but this time did not participate in any specialized work. At the same time, he was running his own civil law practice.

“I spent two years being tired,” Park said. “Then I finally decided I’d had enough.”

Park had put in 22 years with the Oklahoma City Police Department by that point, two more than he needed to take retirement. It was at that point that he left the force and decided he wanted to go be a prosecutor in the mountains.

During his time doing undercover work and working with the interdiction team, Park made approximately 400 drug buys, more buys of guns and explosives, and participated in roughly 2,000 drug raids.

PARK'S INTRODUCTION TO Kalispell came during an August 2009 vacation. During that vacation, he and his wife found themselves at the entrance to the district court building.

“I pointed at the ground and I said, ‘Right here. I’m coming to work at this place,’” Park said. “She said ‘Really?’ I said ‘Really. Just watch me.’”

By the time Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan advertised for an open deputy attorney position, Park had long since completed his resume and application, and mailed it the same day.

Three weeks later, he was back in town for an interview. Just three hours after that interview, Corrigan called to offer Park the job.

Now, with Tuesday marking two years with the office, Park couldn’t be happier.

“I love every minute of it,” Park said. “Ed is really good to work for if you enjoy working and enjoy working hard.”

Park plans to work another 26 years so he can claim the distinction of 50 years working in law enforcement and related fields. He also has another reason.

“For the past 24 years, bad guys have hated me,” he said. “I want to keep that up.”

Reporter Jesse Davis may be reached at 758-4441 or by email at jdavis@dailyinterlake.com.

Park is pictured during his time undercover with the Outlaws Motorcycle Club.

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