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Going country for the Cannon family

Kurt Van Meter sings to aid jailed ex-cops family


by: COURTESY PHOTO -  Kurt van Meter Kurt Van Meter, of Tualatin, writes and sings country music in his off-hours. He is performing at a benefit dance for Lisa Cannon and her children on March 8.Kurt Van Meter of Tualatin is a Hillsboro police officer, a single dad, a former rodeo bull rider and a rising country singer.

He’s also a loyal friend to jailed ex-cop Tim Cannon of Forest Grove, who buoyed him through some tough times several years back.

Van Meter will play a benefit show on Friday at a Hillsboro Elks lodge to help his buddy’s wife and children in the wake of a shootout six weeks ago at Cannon’s home in Forest Grove.

“Tim has helped me through a lot of personal stuff,” Van Meter, 36, said. “When I was going through my struggles with my ex, battling for custody rights for my children, we would get our patrol vehicles door-to-door and talk, or talk when we would clear a call.

“I went to Tim because he is a country boy from Montana, and I grew up around the toughness of the cowboy culture. To me, Tim embodied toughness.”

‘My heart broke’

Lisa and Tim Cannon were there for Van Meter when he opened for country rocker David Allan Coe three years ago in one of his first sold-out shows. “They were in one of the first rows,” Van Meter recalled of that May 2010 performance in Portland’s Roseland Theater.

Since then, Van Meter has played to crowds of 5,000 at CountryFest in Waterfront Park and shared the stage with blues singer Ty Curtis and American Idol-bred singers Britnee Kellog and Crystal Bowersox. He hopes to break into the big-time soon.

Now, as Tim Cannon’s criminal trial for assault and attempted aggravated murder looms in Washington County Circuit Court, Van Meter is coming to the aid of his former colleague and his family.

“When I heard about what happened, my heart broke,” said the divorced father of two boys. “At the end of the day, he is my brother. I choose to love Tim.”

It was an easy “yes” for Van Meter when Alana Ambrose of Beaverton, wife of Hillsboro Police Officer Vin Ambrose, asked him to sing and play at the March 8 benefit dance for Lisa Cannon Supporters, a group she created to help the Cannons, who have two young children.

He accepted the invitation right away.

“We want to create enough cash flow for these guys so that a year or two years down the line, they’ll have something to fall back on,” Van Meter said. “The structure of Lisa’s life has been shattered, so she has to rebuild. The most tangible way we can help is by raising money to support Tim’s family.

“I believe we can come together as a community for this family,” he added, “and there’s a tremendous amount of healing that comes through music.”

Volatile incident

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Kurt Van Meter, a Hillsboro police officer, writes and sings country music in his off-hours. Hes performing at a benefit dance for Lisa Cannon and her children on March 8.Lisa Cannon, a civilian employee of the Forest Grove Police Department, called 911 the evening of Jan. 20 to report a domestic disturbance after her husband, who she said had been drinking, allegedly pinned her to the floor inside their home on 37th Avenue. She broke free and locked herself and their 6-year-old daughter in an upstairs bathroom while Tim Cannon exchanged gunfire with officers from three agencies in one of the most volatile shootouts in the last 20 years.

No one was killed, and Tim Cannon eventually surrendered to police.

Van Meter — who grew up in Klamath Falls, played football at Oregon State University and rode bulls for the Beavers on the collegiate rodeo circuit — said the incident was a symptom of the enormous amount of pressure felt by those in law enforcement.

“It’s very stressful. People don’t understand the checks and balances police officers have to go through on a daily basis,” said Van Meter, who worked for the Benton County Sheriff’s Office in Corvallis before joining the Hillsboro department in 2007.

“Police work is a risk management-driven culture now,” Van Meter said. “What we do is dangerous.”

Tim Cannon’s commendation file, released by Hillsboro Police earlier this month, confirms that. It reveals numerous encounters with burglars, car thieves and neighborhood prowlers. Cannon and another officer won a “life saving award” last year for an incident in October 2011, in which they helped save the life of an injured and suicidal man.

A high-speed chase in Hillsboro and Cornelius on Nov. 21, 2009, which ended with police killing 28-year-old gunman Shawn Schumacher of Hillsboro, sorely tested Van Meter’s professional mettle — and set him on a road to fulfilling a lifelong dream.

“I remember seeing the barrel of his 50-caliber Desert Eagle and the muzzle flash (the visible light of a firearm blast),” said Van Meter. “He missed me, obviously. But that was really the impetus for me to go do this music thing — life is short.”

That close call, coupled with Tim Cannon’s aberrant behavior and subsequent arrest, have deeply affected Van Meter and other officers.

“Warriors have wounds,” he said. “We have psychological and physical wounds ... it’s just the nature of our business.

“I pray that the officers who responded to (the Cannon) call will heal mentally and physically from what they went through.”

Dabbled in music

A country music fan since he was a boy, Van Meter would sometimes sing as he walked through the hallways at the Hillsboro Police Department’s west precinct. “The guys would joke, ‘Hey, don’t quit your day job,’” Van Meter said with a laugh. “But I still kind of dabbled in it.”

Soon he was doing jam sessions at Duke’s Country Bar and Grill in Southeast Portland and joining a group of aspiring musicians at the Rock Creek Tavern on Old Cornelius Pass Road.

“They had a guy with a bluegrass band, and each person there would take turns getting up and singing something,” Van Meter said. “It dawned on me that maybe I could do this.”

In the past three years, Van Meter has opened for nationally known artists Chris Young, Josh Thompson, Montgomery Gentry, Craig Morgan and Coe. The fact he’s been asked to join such stellar company still boggles his mind.

“I feel like I’ve gained a following by standing on the shoulders of giants,” the solo artist said. Van Meter’s original song, “That’s Life,” a tribute to a wounded Afghan War veteran, has sold more than 300 copies and has 2,788 hits on YouTube. He released a gospel rock song, “Jesus Loves the Hell Out of Me,” in 2012.

Van Meter’s journey toward a music career started with a guitar, a failed marriage and the time he had on his hands during the week when he’d come home from work to a too-empty house.

“My boys are my breath,” said Van Meter, whose custody arrangement with his ex-wife brings Cody, 11, and Tanner, 8, to his house every weekend. He hated taking them back to their mom each Sunday night and going home alone.

“Sometimes the silence was so loud.” said Van Meter, who’d start strumming and fooling around with lyrics, filling the hole in his heart with music.

The boys painted “We love you, Dad” on his black guitar case so Van Meter can “take them with me wherever I go,” he said.

“There are two times I have peace: when I’m at home with my boys, making dinner and just being Daddy — and when I’m on stage,” said Van Meter. “That’s when nothing can touch me; when I feel most alive.”

Hug him, slap him

The evening of Jan. 20, Van Meter had gotten off duty 30 minutes before the emergency call from the Cannon house went out over the radio. He was attending a memorial concert for a musician friend and did not respond to the escalating situation.

He felt a range of emotions — from sorrow to anger to empathy — in the aftermath of the 80-minute episode, during which multiple shots were fired and after which Cannon was accused of trying to kill fellow officers.

“I felt bad for Tim because I feel like I should have seen he was struggling,” Van Meter noted. “Then I got pissed at him for shooting at my fellow officers and putting his wife and child through what they went through.

“I wanted to hug him and then slap him.”

A sheriff’s deputy and Cannon were injured in the incident, and Forest Grove Police Chief Janie Schutz has since said it was a miracle no one died that night, including the suspect.

“We’re all trained that we might have to shoot a bad guy,” noted Van Meter, “but never once have we ever thought we might have to try to kill one of our own. That’s tough.”

After Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter was shot and killed in the line of duty in early 2011, Van Meter performed at a memorial concert at Duke’s in Portland. In December, he played and sang with Bowersox, Kellogg and Curtis during a benefit concert for the families of the Clackamas Town Center shooting victims.

He won’t do any less for a man he still cares about, behind bars or not.

“I’m honored to do this benefit. I love Tim to death, and I wish there was a way for me to tell him,” said Van Meter, who said he isn’t allowed to visit Cannon in jail as long as his court case is pending.

For all the heartache Cannon’s situation brings him, Van Meter thinks the benefit concert will be fun. “A lot of good can happen when you pay it forward.”




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