Paying respect in Tacoma, Wash. for slain officers.
Outside the coffee shop.
A button with the four badge numbers of the fallen officers.
Hundreds of Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the Tacoma Dome.
The Lakewood PD was visited by hundreds of well-wishers.
Pomona and Lakewood officers visit.
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- ASIS International to Host Transitioning Program & Luncheon for Law Enforcement & Military Professionals
- 5 Reasons Not to Miss ILEETA Conference 2013
- Less-Lethal Lessons
- Through the Darkness
- NRA's Law Enforcement Division: A Great Resource
Editor's Note: I met Lakewood PD Officer Jeff Carroll in Dallas, Texas during a Below 100 Trainer session three weeks ago. Carroll had been sent across the country to receive training designed to drive down line-of-duty deaths. His presence at the Below 100 Trainer caused me to flash back to that awful day when I learned of the Lakewood tragedy that took the lives of Sergeant Mark Renninger and Officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards. I later had an opportunity to talk with Officer Carroll and asked him what he would like to say to others about the lessons from Lakewood.
“The thing that struck me the most is that we really do deal with three percent of the population,” he said. “Most people support the police. The support that we got from the community, from around the country, even the world, was incredible. This is important—to remember that people really do care about the police.”
Below is a piece I wrote right after the Lakewood shootings two years ago.
When I first stepped inside the coffee shop where four Lakewood, Wash., police officers lived their final moments, I was struck by the contrast of the cold chill of death and the warmth of support and caring. The walls had been repaired and the blood-stained floor already replaced, less than 48 hours after the memorial services. Nonetheless, I couldn t help but visualize the awful life-and-death struggle that had played out at 0814 on a Sunday in that small, previously peaceful business.
While I was there, two Lakewood officers walked in their first visit—to the site where their four coworkers died. Sgt. Mark Eakes, a peer counselor, told me the outpouring of support has been beyond expectation and related the story of two officers who drove a marked vehicle in the dead of winter more than 2,000 miles across the northern U.S. to pay their respects. Their vehicle was one of thousands in a procession that stretched more than 10 miles.
A month prior, Seattle PD Officer Tim Brenton had been assassinated by a subject who drove up next to the unit occupied by Brenton and a trainee, Officer Britt Sweeney. Brenton was struck several times by a high-powered rifle, and Sweeney was wounded but managed to return fire. When the killer was captured, it was determined he was responsible for firebombing police vehicles a few days before he killed Brenton. Seattle authorities believe that incident was designed to kill first responders with secondary explosive devices.
As we were going to press, two Pierce County (Wash.) deputies were ambushed by a suspect during a disturbance call. Sadly, one of the deputies, Kent Mundell Jr., didn t survive. Mundell was the sixth officer killed in the line of duty in this area in two months.
Two days after the Lakewood shootings, killer Maurice Clemmons, despite a bullet wound to his abdomen, tried to ambush another officer by leaving a stolen car running with the hood up. When Seattle Officer Benjamin Kelly pulled in behind the car at 0240 on a Tuesday, Clemmons began his approach but Kelly noticed the movement, identified Clemmons and ordered him to show his hands. When Clemmons tried to pull a gun from his coat (a gun taken from one of the fallen Lakewood officers), Kelly shot him several times, killing him.
Knowledge is Power
It s been my experience that when a line-of-duty death occurs, officers have an insatiable need to know what happened. Although partly driven by desire to prevent a reoccurrence, a large part of the motivation is the need to distance ourselves from the possibility that the same thing could happen to us. We want to know if the victim officer(s) made a major tactical error, failed to wear body armor or drove in a reckless fashion. Essentially, we want to hear that they did something we would never do, and, thus, what happened to them would not happen to us.
The reality of the events is that the officersdid not do anything wrong. And this is the takeaway from these incidents: It can happen to you. Lakewood PD could be Anywhere PD and there have been other recent assassinations similar to the killing of Brenton. These officers were attacked by motivated killers who used surprise and outright viciousness to prevail. Note:These officers were not targeted for who they were but for what they were uniformed police officers.
The increase in outright attacks is something that should cause every officer to rethink their day-to-day vulnerability and, to the extent possible, minimize the possibility of an attack. Following are some suggestions, but know it s not my intent to say that any of these would have necessarily made a difference for the above officers. However, they will make a difference for some future officers.
Wear your vest and ensure it fits properly.
Avoid routine. Be aware of your surroundings.
Be proficient with your tools and keep them and yourself sharp and ready.
Know and practice the principles of Contact and Cover.
Continuously challenge yourself with, What would I do if
For our trainers, when you hear about an incident, discuss it in your training sessions and, if possible, provide relevant training. For instance, I know of an agency that s already decided its next shoot will feature a drill in which an officer sitting in a chair must quickly push away from a table, draw and fire.
I ll never forget the heaviness on my heart as I walked out the employee door of that little coffee shop that had been changed forever. We must never forget, we must always honor, and we must always be ready.