Yesterday, I was in the procession and attended the memorial for the four Lakewood Police Officers who were recently murdered.
I was lucky enough to be in one of the vehicles in the procession. I started out by getting up at 0430 hours, something I usually would not do, now that I am retired. We got to McChord AFB at about 0720 hours, behind some 400 vehicles. The military did an excellent job, providing security, traffic control, and places to assemble. They also provided coffee, water and food.
Again, the soldiers treated everyone with respect and shared our grief. They made it abundantly clear that this was their way of supporting everyone there, and they were there to “Serve and Protect”, while law enforcement took time out to honor the four fallen officers. Everyone was vigilant!
Once the vehicles began to leave the air base, you could see servicemen and women lined up on the base showing their respect and support. The temperature was in the teens and low 20’s. I’m sure those individuals were numb from the cold, but they stood there showing everyone they cared about all of the officers. There were even young children and infants. As we departed the air base, all along the procession route there were people, young and old, white and black, varied backgrounds, with flags, banners, hands over their hearts, saluting, and mourning. The signs varied from “We love our police”, “We love Lakewood Police Officers”, and” Thank You”. There were all types of banners, and lighted digital display boards, some with the officers names and pictures. Showing their support, many of the people along the route waved, many called out, “Thank you”. This line of mourners continued all the way to the Tacoma Dome.
The vehicles, all with lights flashing, began departing the air base at about 1000 hours. There were so many vehicles in the procession that the last ones didn’t arrive near the Tacoma Dome until 1400 hours. Most of the private citizens who lined the streets, stayed out in that below 20 degree weather the entire time.
Law enforcement from all around the United States and Canada were there to show their support. There were so many law enforcement vehicles they needed to be staged, and guarded, at various locations in Tacoma. We were then taken by bus to the Tacoma Dome. SWAT and ERT teams from various agencies were visible on rooftops, along the roadway surrounding the Tacoma Dome, and throughout the Dome itself. There was also a strong military presence.
The reverence and respect displayed by everyone was mind numbing. The Dome was not full, but it would have been uncomfortable if they had tried to squeeze in more people. Most of the time it was so quite, you might have been able to hear a pin drop. The honor guard, color guard, and the bagpipers and drummers were the best I have ever seen or heard.
The families, friends and officers who spoke about the fallen officers were excellent. They described the officers, their varied backgrounds, levels of proficiency, their devotion to duty, but mostly their love of family, life, and their fellow officers. This tribute spoke volumes about everyone in attendance and the fallen officers.
I don’t know how the speakers were able to keep their composure. It was obvious they were in great pain, but they wanted everyone to know how they felt about the officers. It was more about a tribute to the fallen officers than a solemn memorial. It was done with a great deal of passion and sensitivity.
There were officers from the RCMP in their dress uniforms that took up and entire section. But, there were also numerous Canadian officers in their dark blues. I have been to many funerals and memorials. Some of them were for fallen officers. None of those services came close in magnitude or solemnity that this one did.
It was obvious the speakers from the Lakewood Police Department truly cared about these officers. Unfortunately, after hearing the Chief of Police talk about them I felt an uneasiness in his composure. I am afraid that he is taking himself to task over the death of these four officers. He didn’t say that, nor did he mention it. I just feel he is beside himself. I hope that someone ministers to his needs, and the needs of the other officers.
Knowing these young officers were “The best of the Best”, in top physical and mental condition, with their varied backgrounds and experience, given the circumstances I don’t think for a moment there was anything they could have done differently. (Yes, I agree that whenever an officer is sitting in an open place he is a target for some demented person. Unfortunately, evil people do exit. This could have happened at a residence, at a public event, or almost anywhere. The weapon could have been a car or a bomb.) If it had not been these four officers, then it would have been others. This sick individual had made it known, to family and friends, that he was going to kill police officers. Why they didn’t take action to get him help, or warn law enforcement speaks volumes about each of them. Reports state that the shooter had also mentioned he was planning to kill others.
The governor spoke for a few minutes and expressed her sorrow and concern for the officers and their family members. It was obviously a moment for her to reflect and express her feelings, without political motivation.
This continued until well after dark. The flags were folded and presented to the families, and the pall bearers carried the caskets from the building. Outside the weather was bitter, but the citizens were there showing their support.
The day was also a time to reflect on our own lives. I came to the ceremony with an officer I have known for years. Prior to my retirement, we worked major narcotics smuggling cases together. We had taken down numerous felons and had been involved in enforcement actions in the U.S. and Canada. We spent a great deal of our time, day and night, away from our family members, doing what we believed was important. I trusted him with my life, and the other way around. The experiences were dangerous, but rewarding. Only by the Grace of God did we make it through the challenges. Marty, thank you for all that you did, and continue to do. Your friendship helped me through those hard times, and continues to lift my spirit.
I also attended the memorial with a next door neighbor and a good friend, who retired from the Fremont, California, fire department. Unfortunately, he now has the burden of looking out for me, when my family isn’t around. Hopefully, he is up to the challenge. Bob, “Good luck with that”.
Before and after the procession, I encountered several officers I knew from 1994 to the present. I took this time to say hello and let them know how good it was to see them. God has brought us to this point in our lives, somewhat intact. Let’s be thankful for that.
I have been blessed with a wonderful family that have put up with me for all these years. I have also been blessed by many friends, both in law enforcement, and many who are not in law enforcement. (I’m sure they wouldn’t want me to leave out the fact that they have also had to put up with me for a long, long, time.)
I thank God for everyday that I have had, to experience such wonderful people. I thank you for tolerating me.