Deaths of two police officers shock and sadden Santa Cruz
As more than 100 people prepared to participate in a rally against gun violence at the Town Clock tower on Tuesday, Feb. 26, event organizer Gini Bianchi says multiple police cars suddenly screeched past the crowd, heading rapidly in the direction of Water Street and Branciforte Avenue.
Just after 3:30 p.m., more police cars, paramedic vehicles and a Santa Cruz Fire Truck with its horn blaring raced past, and a moment later helicopters were circling overhead.
Santa Cruz Police Department detectives Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker and Elizabeth Butler, who were following up on a sexual assault charge called in earlier that week, contacted the 35-year-old suspect Jeremy Goulet at his Branciforte Avenue home. He then gunned down both officers on his doorstep, according Sheriff Phil Wowak and Deputy April Skalland, who spoke during a press conference at the SCPD station on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Authorities say Goulet then took the officers' weapons and stole Baker's car.
Police quickly quarantined the area and conducted a search of each of the streets in the vicinity, contacting Goulet 30 minutes later on nearby Doyle Street. A barrage of gunfire ensued, ending with Goulet being shot and killed.
Multiple agencies including the FBI, the Sheriff's Office and officers from the Capitola, Watsonville and Scotts Valley police departments, as well as the California Highway Patrol, assisted in the search and proving security.
The deaths of Baker, a highly-talented 28-year veteran who helped to train SCPD Chief Kevin Vogel, and Butler, a 10-year veteran specializing in sexual assault cases, are the first in-the-line-of-duty police homicides in Santa Cruz history.
"This is a horrific day," Vogel said. An event honoring Baker and Butler is planned for tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 27, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Louden Nelson Community Center, Room 3, 809 Center St., Santa Cruz. Find more information about the event here.
During the press conference, Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant, looking deeply saddened, addressed the crowd and offered her sympathies to the families and officers.
"Tonight we are heartbroken at the loss of two of our finest police officers who were killed in the line of duty, protecting the community we love," she said. "This is an exceptionally shocking and sad day for Santa Cruz and our police department."
The SCPD was off duty on Wednesday, Feb. 27. The Sheriff's Office and the California Highway patrol assumed responsibility for the city in the wake of the shooting while Santa Cruz police take time to mourn their fallen friends. SCPD is expected to resume patrol tomorrow, Thursday, Feb. 28.
During the Wednesday conference, Skalland said a woman that Goulet worked with at a cafe near the Harbor had filed a sexual assault complaint against him the previous week after he broke into her home and made sexual advances toward her. Goulet was fired from his job as a result.
According to a 2008 article in the Oregonian newspaper in Portland, Ore., Goulet was sentenced to three years of probation and sex-offender treatment after being convicted of peeping at a 22-year-old woman while she was showering at her home in Portland. He was also convicted of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit in the same case.
At the press conference, Santa Cruz local Tim Dare, 19, said, "This really hurts me." He didn't know either of the officers but said that the pain within the community is hitting him very hard.
He brought with him a bouquet of flowers, which he laid down amongst many other floral offerings and lit candles. Tears ran down some attendees’ faces.
"I've never seen anything like this. They were just doing their job," Dare said. "And they got shot down."
"Just seeing all of this and how the community is coming together made me want to be a part of it," he added. "[And] I think the police are doing the best job that they can."
For those looking for a way to help the families of the deceased, Bay Federal Credit Union has partnered with Central Coast News KION/KCBA to set up a fund for the families of both Butler and Baker.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of detective Butler and Sgt. Baker,” said Carrie Birkhofer, president and CEO of Bay Federal in a Wednesday press release. “We hope these donations will help them with the many financial needs they will undoubtedly face.”
PHOTO: Tim Dare, 19, at a press conference at the police station Wednesday morning. Photo by Joel Hersch.
UPDATE: Rep. Sam Farr released this statement on Wednesday, Feb. 27:
“Every day, police officers bravely place themselves in harm’s way to protect our communities and keep us safe. Yesterday, detective Sgt. Loran “Butch” Baker and detective Elizabeth Butler of the Santa Cruz Police Department sacrificed their lives during that service. These two heroes represent the best of Santa Cruz and their deaths are a tragedy. I join with all residents of the Central Coast, to mourn this shooting and to pay our respects to these two outstanding officers. Our prayers and sympathies are with the families and loved ones of the officers who gave their lives in the line of duty. As a community, we promise that the sacrifices of officers Baker and Butler will not be forgotten. While the words of comfort we offer today are sincere, our actions and deeds will be the true test of our resolve. As this investigation continues, many questions will surface, including ‘How was an individual with such a troubled past able to obtain firearms?’ If we are truly committed to ending gun violence in our communities, we must be willing to answer that question and seek real solutions to prevent this type of senseless shooting from occurring again. We owe that much to the brave men and women who put on a police uniform every day. We must be willing to protect those who so bravely protect us.”
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