Family, friends and colleagues of Santa Cruz Detective Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler traveled over Highway 17 Thursday in a 200-car funeral procession to downtown San Jose's HP Pavilion. There is no place large enough in Santa Cruz to hold the thousands of mourners for the officers' memorial -- and even an arena cannot contain the magnitude of the sorrow felt in the community.
It was every officer's nightmare, and every family member's: The routine car stop, the report of some possible domestic conflict, the standard-procedure interview at a suspect's home -- and out of nowhere, gunfire and death. Detectives Baker and Butler apparently had no warning when Jeremy Peter Goulet pulled a gun.
The impact on Santa Cruz has been profound. Shaken colleagues saw the first officers killed on the job in the Santa Cruz Police Department's 150-year history. Families don't feel quite as safe in what vacationers see as Surf City, the iconic California beach town.
Every time police officers or firefighters die on the job, it conjures memories of previous loss. We have had our share in the East Bay in the last few years.
Last September, California Highway Patrolman Kenyon Youngstrom was gunned down on I-680 near Danville while making what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop. In March 2009, four Oakland police officers were killed by a rampaging gunman after what also had begun as a routine traffic stop.
In most of California's budget-challenged cities, debates over pension costs can place officers in conflict with taxpayers. But the differences dissolve when people need help and the police are there. A tragedy like this reminds us what public service can entail and the value of the people who take the risks.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen posted a note to his staff the day after the Santa Cruz tragedy. He began:
"We handle their case files and speak with the officers during issuing meetings. They sit next to us in trial. We marvel at their professionalism, how they dug up that extra piece of information or knocked on that extra door.
"Sgt. Loran 'Butch' Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler knocked on that extra door yesterday afternoon."
Rosen wrote about the incident -- the firefighter who shielded a bystander from Goulet's gunfire as officers closed in, and the way sheriff's deputies and Highway Patrol officers stepped up the next day to help patrol Santa Cruz as the city police officers mourned.
"It's easy to forget that these case files in our hands are the product of thousands of officers walking up to thousands of doors," wrote Rosen. "This day our thoughts and prayers are with them, and with all of law enforcement. May they knock on doors, and do their duty, and come home safely tonight and all nights."
Our hearts are with them too, and with the people who loved Baker and Butler -- whether as personal friends and family, or through the powerful bond of service in law enforcement.