Melanie Patton last saw her son over the May long weekend when they met for a belated Mother’s Day celebration in Saskatoon.
Mother’s Day is a big tradition in the Patton family, complete with tea parties, big hats and obstacle-course croquet. This year, between busy work schedules and COVID-19 restrictions, they didn’t know if they could gather at all.
“We just managed to pull enough strings to get together and play croquet outside on the hotel lawn,” Patton told The Canadian Press. “I’m glad we made it happen.”
Three weeks later, on June 12, RCMP Const. Shelby Patton was struck and killed by a vehicle he had pulled over in Wolseley, a town east of Regina. Two people were arrested and charged with manslaughter.
When Melanie Patton was told what happened, she said she didn’t believe it.
“I remember saying, ‘No, you mean he’s in the hospital and they’re working on him,’” she said. “It’s hard to handle. You just go numb.”
Patton said she believes her son shouldn’t have been working alone and that a shortage of members is putting officers in peril.
Patton works as a civilian member of the RCMP in Stettler, Alta. She said she took the job at her son’s encouragement.
“We’re so short-staffed,” she said. “We might only have one (member) going to a priority call in the middle of nowhere, too far for help to come fast enough.
“In Shelby’s death, if he would have had a partner, maybe they would have thought twice before trying to do that.”
The 26-year-old had been a Mountie for six years and four months, almost all of which he spent stationed in Indian Head, Sask., not far from Yorkton, the city where he grew up.
There was “never a dull moment” in the house, his mother recalled.
“He was always building things, coming up with new ideas for game boards,” she said. “He really was a mini-me. Everything that I did, he would jump in and do with me.”
Whether they were bonding over a competitive game of Clue, a family favourite, or discussing criminology at the kitchen table, he shared his mother’s interest in crime and justice too.
“I would often talk about that stuff and how to make the world a better place,” she said. “He actually went out and did it.”
Even when he was young, Patton said her son was passionate about helping others.
“If somebody needed something, he would give them ours, sometimes without me knowing,” she said. “If he found a stray animal, he always brought it home and doctored it up.”
He also loved superheroes. After joining the RCMP, she said, he often wore a Superman shirt under his uniform.
“He was so excited to be a police officer. Like, his first car was an old RCMP car … then he got his first posting fairly close to home. Everybody was happy.”
When he was posted to Indian Head, his mother says it didn’t take him long to find himself at home.
“He ended up getting another stray that was found running through the fields,” she said. “It was a German shepherd dog, and of course he fell in love right away with this puppy because it looked like a police dog.”
Patton said she was proud of her son’s career. But she also worried about him.
“A mother worries all the time, so I chalked it up to just one of those things. He always tried to make me feel better,” she said.
Const. Patton’s parents, sister and widow have had a private funeral. Melanie Patton said a regimental service organized by the RCMP is to be held after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in the province.
When she thinks about her son, Patton said, she tries to remember what he loved most about his job.
“It was just helping people,” she said. “At the end of the day, what he smiled about the most when we talked was how he helped. If he helped somebody in some way, it made him feel better.”
But other days, she said she doesn’t know how to move forward.
“I lost my little mini-me, and a friend, too.”
© 2021 The Canadian Press