LOMITA -- Alexis Butler was proud of her younger sister, Elizabeth, a Santa Cruz police detective who grew up in Lomita. Maybe even a bit jealous, she acknowledges.
"Jealous in the way someone is really doing a job that they love and gets paid for it," the sister said. "There was a career path and it fit into what she liked to do. It seemed like a dream." Elizabeth Butler, a 10-year veteran police officer, died in the line of duty Tuesday while investigating a sexual assault. A gunman opened fire on the 38-year-old officer and her partner, 28-year veteran Loran "Butch" Baker, killing both when they walked up to his door to talk to him.
Butler and Baker were the first police officers killed in the line of duty in the history of the Santa Cruz department.
"I think she always wanted to do a job that served the public," her sister said.
"She just seemed always to be very well-adjusted and happy and super fun. The thing about her job, she really liked to investigate things." Butler, who attended St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church school in Lomita, never planned for a career as a police officer while attending Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance, where she was a member of the California Scholarship Federation and the Mountaineering Club, and competed in volleyball and track.
Butler majored in community studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and worked jobs where she could help people, including at a children's center and at Lenders for Community Development, an organization that helped provide loans to largely minority families to start businesses.
Butler then moved to San Francisco, where she met her boyfriend, artist Peter Woo, in a ceramics class.
The couple fell in love and, after checking out Portland, Ore., as a possible site for Woo to open a ceramics studio, chose Santa Cruz.
With money tight, and openings at the Police Department, Butler applied to become a police officer. The job would allow her to make use of her ability to speak fluent Spanish and her desire to help people.
"She ended up being a really good police officer," her sister said. "She loved the job." Handling sex crimes, Butler excelled at conducting interviews and interrogations, and interviewing children, her sister said. Two weeks ago, Butler investigated the shooting of a 21-year-old woman during a robbery at a bus stop.
Butler never became depressed, despite the nature of her work, Alexis Butler said.
"My sister believed in the innate goodness of people," her sister said. "She didn't dwell on it."
In a June 4, 2011, blog post on the Santa Cruz Police Department's website, Butler said she enjoyed working with residents of her city.
"Solving criminal cases with the community's help and participation is the most fulfilling aspect of police work," Butler said. "We are here to serve the residents of the City of Santa Cruz and make this a safe place to live and raise families." During her career, Butler worked as a patrol officer, hostage negotiator, a bike officer, a narcotics investigator and walked a downtown foot beat.
At home, Butler and her boyfriend were raising their two children, sons Joaquin, 5, and Stellan, 2. She took them to school, to the park and music class. Butler's mother, Louise, moved from her Lomita home to care for the children while their mother worked a police officer's odd hours and overtime.
"They had a really happy family," Alexis Butler said. "They had just gone to the beach last weekend as a family." Santa Cruz Police Chief Keith Vogel called Tuesday the darkest day in the department's history. The suspected shooter, Jeremy Peter Goulet, 35, was killed in a gunbattle with police officers about 30 minutes after shooting Butler and her partner.
Alexis Butler said she had never worried about her sister, even though she realized she was in a high-risk job. She called her sister's death the result of "senseless violence." Calling herself a pacifist, Alexis Butler said she did not hold the same views about guns as her sister. The shooting, and other recent high-profile killings, makes Alexis Butler wonder "about every person being able to have access to guns." "It seems like they are saying that the police were just following a regular review process," the sister said. "It just seems like someone opening a door and killing police officers at the door - it's wrong." Alexis Butler planned to travel to Santa Cruz today to join her mother. Their father, Jerry, died several years ago.
"(My sister) was a very admirable person and she never faltered," she said. "She was a good person and she was compassionate toward people. Just last weekend she said she wished more women would become police officers."
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