I mentioned in my blog post last week that my next few posts would be to highlight some of the people who helped me as I researched the material for my book. I read hundreds of newspaper articles on this story, but it was the personal information from those who were present who helped bring the book to life. One of my valuable resources was Sgt. Bob Harvey, DPS retired. He had a front row seat to the Arizona part of this tragedy and was most helpful as a witness.
Robert Priddy Harvey, Jr. was a child of the Great Depression born October 4, 1929. He served as a medic in the Korean War and began his service with the Arizona Highway Patrol (later the Department of Public Safety) in 1953. He served with DPS for 25 years, and retired at the rank of Sergeant in 1978, He later was a Holbrook city court magistrate from 1980 to 1997. I interviewed him in 2007, ten years after he retired from his magistrate job and seven years before he passed.
I first mention Bob’s actions in my book in Chapter 1, when on page 10, I describe my involvement with the horrible murders on February 5, 1971, as I was in a van packed full of Valley High School wrestlers from Sanders, AZ heading to the town of Williams for a wrestling match. We first spotted a DPS car coming out of Holbrook heading eastbound at breakneck speed. I later learned that Bob was driving that car. I then mention his actions in Chapter 6 on page 78 of the book, where he described to me learning that an officer had been shot and how he grabbed a newly minted patrolman named Mike Miller and they wheeled out of the District 3 headquarters building located by the Holbrook Airport along Old Route 66 and headed for Houck.
Bob described a very nerve-wracking incident as they rushed to the Keeton Murder scene, where they topped a hill by the Dead Wash Rest area on I-40 and suddenly came upon a semi-truck passing another 18-wheeler, and blocking both lanes of traffic. At 130 MPH, he knew that they would likely be upon the trucks before they heard his siren, and that there was no possible way he could stop in time to avoid hitting the trucks; so, he picked a side and passed the two trucks on the right shoulder. I am sure they were by the two semis, before either of the drivers knew what happened. Although the Dead Wash Rest area was decommissioned years ago, it was located where the Dead Wash intersected I-40 east of Petrified Forest National Park. It was a few miles south of the Dead Wash Bridge on Old Route 66, which is just west of Dotch Windsor’s Painted Desert Trading Post, a restored Route 66 icon today.
Bob and Mike arrived at Keeton’s patrol car, which was about a mile west of the Houck exit. It was abandoned with Keeton slumped over in the front seat, because Officer Ben Smith had arrived to find Keeton deceased and then heard a call for help from Don Beckstead over Keeton’s radio. Don had been shot only 7- and one-half miles east of Keeton. Smith left to assist Beckstead. Sgt. Harvey stayed at the Keeton scene until he was later relieved by patrolman Charlie Cleveland. He provided me with a specific description of the scene, including the fact that Keeton’s service revolver was missing, and that it appeared that two rounds had been fired in the car. The first while the revolver was in the holster, during the struggle for control of the gun, and that the first round went through the bottom of the holster, through the seat and floorboard, and embedded in the asphalt below the car. He said Keeton had what appeared to be an entry bullet wound on his lower right side near the beltline.
Harvey was also the one who told me about the school bus driver who heard the two shots and saw Greenberg get out of the police car, put something into his belt, and then get into a green Pontiac and flee eastbound. He also told me about how a witness driving by on I-40 had seen the two officers struggling in the police car and how the witness stopped at Mayo Follett’s Chevron Gas Station near Ft. Courage and someone at the station called over to Officer Ben Smith’s nearby house. Smith then jumped into his patrol car and drove down to check on the officer who needed help, found Keeton deceased, and then heard Officer Beckstead over the radio calling for help. He said Officer Smith arrived at the second scene to find Beckstead gravely wounded and partially inside his patrol vehicle. Smith later told Sgt. Harvey that he decided getting Beckstead out of his car and back to Smith’s car would be too hard on him, so he secured his own car and then drove Beckstead to McKinley General Hospital in Gallup in Beckstead’s car.
Sgt. Harvey had a great memory and was very helpful. Because the investigating officer from AZ DPS criminal investigation division (Sgt. Scott Chesnut) had already died from cancer several years before I started my research and because I was unable to locate a copy of Sgt. Chesnut’s report, Sgt. Harvey provided me with the most valuable information about what happened. What I learned from Bob Harvey helped to piece together the picture of what happened at the two shooting scenes in Arizona. For that I am very grateful. He told me how glad he was that I was writing this story to keep the memory of those two officers alive.