Last Thursday in Gorst, forensic experts arrived to process an early morning homicide. They set up a logic-driven crime scene, incorporating technology and methods unknown even a few years ago. When pieced together, these efforts will give investigators an inside look at the death of Washington State Patrol Trooper Tony Radulescu.
And none of it will make any sense.
The answers such tests will provide – the whens, whats and hows – are important, make no mistake. The information provided by photographs and tire imprints, from detailed interviews and follow-up calls, and from all the high-tech tools and forensic analysis at the disposal of a 21st century law enforcement agency will help police and the courts reach appropriate legal decisions.
Yet the smiling face of Tony Radulescu - immigrant, military service veteran, seasoned trooper with the Washington State Patrol, and a cherished father – begs an answer to the most basic interrogative: Why?
As the hours become days and the days weeks, we will learn more about the distorted world of Trooper Radulescu’s killer (who does not deserve to be named in this column). We already know he was a violent young man with a lengthy criminal history (TNT 2/24). We can infer that, like so many other violent individuals, his hatred for cops increased at the same rate as his violent tendencies. He grew accustomed to dealing with adversity with his fists, especially if his adversary were smaller and female. His violent nature insured that the police were the one constant in his life, the providers of a perverse source of attention. Predictably, he threatened to kill the next cop that arrested him.
Trooper Radelescu knew none of this when he stopped the killer, the veritable ticking time bomb, in his vehicle during the early morning hours last Thursday.
The professional world of state troopers like Tony Radulescu is a study in contrast. A brief amount of time is spent in the quiet comfort of a patrol car driving down a lonesome highway, only to be interrupted by the chirp of a radio. Suddenly, the location switches to the shoulder of a congested freeway, where the work is a mix of adrenalin, flashing lights, blaring sirens, screams of pain and fear, racing traffic and the clashing roles of protector and enforcer.
Working the freeways and highways of our state is a very perilous job. As a young officer I stopped a car on the inside shoulder of I-5 and was almost propelled into the fast lane by the vortex of a passing semi truck. Since then I rarely venture onto the freeway except to help troopers with car collisions, a task which they handle with ease and precision despite the proximity of speeding traffic. They also assist stranded motorists, fix flats and generally try to keep us from killing each other on the roadways in our state.
This is the multi-faceted and hazardous job at which Trooper Tony Radulescu excelled. It was in this role that he patrolled the roads and highways, stopping more cars than most of us who work for city or county agencies. Making traffic stops, though, is a shell game that will eventually uncover a violent individual, and all the training in the world is no guarantee of a positive outcome.
Trooper Radelescu never knew his killer, a fact which brings us back to the unanswered question: Why did Trooper Radulescu’s professional career, his hopes and dreams, his role as a family man and friend – his very life – end at the hands of a man whom he had never met? The answer is not buried in the crime scene analysis. Nor is it on a psychological report wedged into the killer’s criminal history file.
The answer is simple: This murder was nothing more than the inarticulate rage of a child who never had the courage to be a man.
Trooper Tony Radelescu, gone but not forgotten.