By Brent Champaco; The News Tribune
The killing of four of Lakewood’s original police officers left the community of 59,000 shocked, somber and grieving Monday.
The story has gained national attention, but it’s a local tragedy for residents. Although it’s Pierce County’s second-largest city, they say Lakewood is tight-knit, and some residents worked directly with the officers.
A few of them were regular customers at the Starbucks at Lakewood Towne Center, and baristas had chatted with one of the officers just before Thanksgiving.
On Monday, staff had posted a remembrance card and note at the shop’s counter so customers could leave messages.
“It hits everybody,” said employee Coco Konstantinos.
In a city that’s been divided over everything from incorporation to gambling, residents appeared unified in their grief for and support of their police department.
From Lakewood City Hall to Burs Restaurant to Western State Hospital, flags flew at half-staff to honor the officers who were gunned down at a Parkland coffee shop a day earlier.
Signs throughout the city paid tribute to those who died.
“We honor our fallen LPD officers,” read the message outside the Lakewood Fire District on Steilacoom Boulevard Southwest.
“LPD God Bless You,” wrote Happy Days Casino on its sign off Bridgeport Way Southwest. “We appreciate and also grieve in your loss.”
The shooting reverberated with long-time residents and those new to the community.
Vinnie Thompson, 20, is a lifelong Lakewood resident who was helping sell Christmas trees off 100th Street Southwest and Bridgeport.
He said he saw police cars fly by his stand shortly after the shooting occurred Sunday. After learning what happened, he said he and other residents are still in shock.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “I’m from Lakewood. News like this travels fast. It spreads like wildfire.”
Perhaps the biggest outpour of emotional support from the community is the growing mound of flowers, balloons, candles and other remembrances outside the Lakewood Police Station.
On Monday, hundreds of people trekked to the site despite the entrance being closed to the public. Some people left teddy bears and signed each of the message books for the fallen officers. An elderly woman got off a bus and walked to the memorial carrying a set of flowers.
Josh Hanigan, who lives outside of Lakewood, took his wife and daughter to pay their respects. He stared at the memorial and simply shook his head.
“I just felt I needed to be here,” he said.