SANTA CRUZ -- The motorcade of 200 Santa Cruz County law enforcement vehicles will begin at 8:45 a.m. Thursday for the 33-mile trek to a location large enough to handle the thousands expected for the memorial service honoring two fallen Santa Cruz police detectives.
Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel, returning from his second walk-through of the HP Pavilion in San Jose on Monday, said the arena, which can seat up to 18,000, was chosen because the family wanted an indoor location where mourners could be together.
"As chief, my responsibility first and foremost is to my fallen officers," Vogel said. "It was important to the families to have it in one spot versus satellite locations via live television feed. And unfortunately, we don't have an indoor venue in Santa Cruz that would accommodate all those people."
He said City Council members and others received emails questioning the venue change. Others said officers had been stopped on the street and questioned about why the service wasn't being held in town, or in the county.
For Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker, the Pavilion, home to the San Jose Sharks, was like a second home. A season ticket holder, he spent a lot of time there.
Baker and detective Elizabeth Butler were gunned down in an ambush on the afternoon of Feb. 26. Suspect Jeremy Peter Goulet, 35, was shot and killed by officers 30 minutes later.
As many as 15,000 are expected at the noon service with an estimated
6,000 of those being uniformed officers from across the country, county Supervisor Zach Friend said. Gov. Jerry Brown and other elected officials are expected to attend as well as a special musical guest.
To accommodate local residents who cannot make the trip, the three-hour memorial will be webcast at Kaiser Permanente Arean, which holds about 4,000, at 140 Front St. and at the Del Mar Theatre, which seats about 500, on 1124 Pacific Ave. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.
People are expected along the processional route, which will leave from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Third and Beach streets about 8:45 a.m. and head up Ocean Street to Highway 17.
The procession will travel about 30 to 40 mph, in the fast lane on Highway 17. The California Highway Patrol advises that people will not be able to pass in the other lane.
"There will be full traffic control in place," CHP Sgt. Kevin Enox said. "In order to control traffic around the procession, we have to keep that lane open. We will try to minimize the impact on our local traffic and do all we can to get people where they need to go, but there will be delays."
The service is expected to last about three hours, with family members, dignitaries and fellow officers addressing the crowd. A small processional will return to Santa Cruz for a private reception at the Cocoanut Grove.
The service originally was set for Kaiser Permanente Arena with a live feed broadcast at the Civic Auditorium. Announcing the switch to San Jose last week, Deputy Chief Steve Clark said local venues had been "incredibly generous in offering services and location" and that the department was grateful for those offers but the space just wasn't big enough.
Some local residents wish it had been possible to realize those offers.
"I'm not going to be able to go now," said Stacey Lake of Santa Cruz. "I'm not going to be able to take time off of work to drive over the hill."
Lake, a county worker, said she had planned to go on her lunch break and regrets she won't be able to see it live.
Mikol Garcia of Santa Cruz said he wished the memorial service could be held at Cabrillo College.
"The people of Surf City are mourning, too," he said.
Vogel said he understands residents' concerns but said the move was necessary.
The city is providing some free Metro bus service for those who need it, Vogel said. More details on that will be forthcoming.
"We all wish we had the local capacity to serve the thousands of people throughout the country that have said they want to attend," Vogel said. "This simply wasn't possible, so we're asking that people either commit to driving less than a mile for every year that Butch and Elizabeth served our community and join us at the HP Pavilion or participate in the simulcast at the Kaiser Permanente Arena.
"These past few days have been very difficult and organizing a memorial that honors Butch and Elizabeth and accommodates the large-scale interest has been challenging. But we are pleased to offer a local option as well."
Friend said Monday he hopes those in the community complaining about the San Jose venue might not know all the work that went into finding a suitable place for the service.
Friend said he believes the memorial planning team has done a "phenomenal job" under the circumstances and that the families have been remarkably strong.
The questioning of officers about it has been disappointing, he said.
"It's a misguided frustration and we need to turn that into something positive, into support for the families and the department," he said.
Police have readily acknowledged and expressed appreciation for the huge groundswell of community support, evidenced by a lush garden of flowers, letters, cards, candles, mementos, gifts and other items left in the past week in a courtyard in front of the police department.
Those items include a Purple Heart left last week, anonymously, and a second left there Monday, Clark said.
"What an honor," he said.
As for the memorial planning, Clark said many have been working tirelessly, including former officers who have taken time off of their jobs to help. That includes retired Santa Cruz Police Chief Steve Belcher.
"I've been so amazed of their spirit and drive," Clark said of the help they've received.
"I'm fearful that the real work will start once this is over," he said. "What's going to happen next week when this isn't here to help us focus. We have a lot of work ahead of us."
Staff writers Stephen Baxter, Jessica M. Pasko and Julie Copeland contributed to this report.
Follow Sentinel reporter Cathy Kelly on Twitter at Twitter.com/cathykelly9
Bay Federal Credit Union is accepting donations for the families of Santa Cruz police detective Sgt. Loran 'Butch' Baker and detective Elizabeth Butler.
Checks should be made payable to the Santa Cruz Police Officers Association and mailed to 3333 Clares St., Capitola, CA 95010. Donations also can be made at any Bay Federal branch.
The Police Officers Association and Police Department have set up a 'Baker/Butler Scholarship Fund' with Wells Fargo. Donations are accepted at any Wells Fargo branch nationwide to account No. 999 245 1154.
The city of Santa Cruz is accepting credit card donations to the Baker and Butler families on the city's website at www.cityofsantacruz.com. Checks to the attention of the Baker/Butler Scholarship Fund also can be mailed to 809 Center St., Room 101, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. Credit card donations also will be taken during normal business hours at 831-420-5070. Several Santa Cruz businesses contributed $125,000 to the fund on Friday as a joint donation.
Police say 100 percent of donations through the city website will go to support the families. Money from all the funds is expected to be handled by the Santa Cruz Police Officers Association for distribution to the Baker and Butler families.
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