Thousands attend funeral of fallen Moody County deputy sheriff

February 10, 2024

MADISON, S.D. (AP) — Law officers from across South Dakota and out of state flashed their emergency lights in unison as hundreds of mourners packed a sports stadium to honor a South Dakota deputy killed in the line of duty.

Moody County Chief Deputy Ken Prorok, 51, of Wentworth, was remembered Thursday as a coach, mentor and a giving member of his community. The funeral was so large that it took place at the Dakota State Fieldhouse in Madison.

Prorok was killed Feb. 2 when he was struck by a suspect’s vehicle while placing spike strips during a police chase. Prosecutors charged Joseph Gene Hoek, 40, with first-degree murder and aggravated eluding. He is jailed without bond.

Roads leading to the fieldhouse were lined with flags at half-staff, and with people showing support for the fallen deputy and his family. At the fieldhouse, the dozens of police vehicles had their emergency lights on in tribute to Prorok.

“Ken was a quiet difference maker and an influencer to all who crossed his path, whether they knew it or not,” his sister-in-law, Robin Eich, said prior to the service. “Ken always told Renee (his wife) that he would be home after every shift no matter what. He just didn’t know that this time ‘home’ would be Heaven.”

Gov. Kristi Noem was among those at the funeral. Meanwhile, the South Dakota House and Senate observed a moment of silence to honor Prorok.

Special Agent Jeffrey Kollars of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation wrote in a court filing that Madison police responded Friday afternoon to a call about a man, identified as Hoek, making “homicidal threats” near the business where the caller worked. Police spotted his car and tried to stop him, but Hoek sped off, Kollars wrote.

The chase reached 115 mph. Prorok stopped to deploy stop spikes across Highway 34. A witness said he saw the approaching car intentionally swerve and strike Prorok before it went into the ditch and flipped, the agent wrote. Hoek ran but the witness caught him and detained him until officers arrived, the court filing stated.

Prorock died at the scene. Hoek was not seriously hurt.

Kollars wrote that Hoek told him he had gone to the business to collect from the caller, who he said owed him money. Investigators who searched the car found suspected THC vapes, suspected marijuana paraphernalia and “blunts,” and containers of cold medicine, the agent wrote. Outside the car they found an apparent bong and an unopened bottle of liquor, he said.

Hoek’s mother told investigators that she believed her son “was suffering from mental health issues and was self-medicating.”