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A crime and a loss beyond expression

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Nov. 29, 2009 at 6:59 pm with 12 Comments »
November 29, 2009 6:59 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Shock. Sympathy. Anger.

Such words hardly describe the depth of what citizens – and the staff of this newspaper – felt Sunday after hearing that four Lakewood police officers were gunned down in a Parkland coffee shop.

Maybe the shock is a good place to start. In Pierce County, deliberate killings of police officers have been rare. Prior to Sunday, only four had occurred over the last 30 years. In each case, a single officer died. Suddenly, four officers – Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold, Greg Richards and Sgt. Mark Renninger – are dead in a single day.

Four officers, one shooting. There’s no precedent in state history, and only a few precedents in the nation’s history. Officers aren’t told this nearly enough, but the vast majority of citizens cherish them, respect them and deeply appreciate the risks they willingly incur protecting the innocent from the violent and the predatory. The killing of one of these valiant professionals rips a terrible wound in any community. The killing of four leaves us reeling.

It’s not just that they were killed; it’s that they were apparently killed for no other reason than they were officers. When officers are murdered in the line of duty, it is usually because they are trying to arrest a criminal or stop a crime in progress. They are killed in the heat of action, because they are in the way.

This looks like a different kind of killing. The four Lakewood officers had casually gathered, doing paperwork. The killer appears to have deliberately stalked them, singling them out solely because of the shields they wore. No one else at the scene was harmed.

Just a few weeks ago, Seattle Officer Timothy Brenton was singled out and gunned down by a cop-hater. Such killings rank – with the murder of children and a handful of other atrocities – as the most outrageous of crimes.

The surviving loved ones of these officers deserve the sympathy of every citizen. Yes, families understand the perils of these jobs. But spouses, children and parents don’t expect the officers they love to be executed, mob-style, while seated peacefully in a coffee shop. No one – officer or family – signed up for this.

As of this writing, the killer has not been found. Many angered citizens are hoping out loud that police will shoot the suspect rather than arrest him. But it’s safe to assume that the police will – as they do routinely – use the minimum possible force. If possible, they will take the suspect into custody unharmed, read him his legal rights and book him safely into jail. That professionalism, multiplied fourfold, is part of what we lost Sunday. The loss, inexpressible, cannot be made good.

Leave a comment Comments → 12
  1. This is a much more respectful opinion than the one you gave regarding Officer Brenton and police motorcades at funerals. thank you. The last opinion was very disturbing.

  2. tacomaguy30 says:

    Is the News Tribune going to complain about the inconvenience of the memorial for these officers as well? I haven’t thought the same about the News Tribune since you wrote that editorial regarding officer Brenton. I thought it was tacky and completely out of line. It wasn’t even in your city or your county for that matter. You should realize, that it is not only a memorial for the slain officer, but being that the killer was still on the loose, also a show of force and unity among police officers as an illustration to the killer that they stick together and their numbers are many. You can bet their won’t be that sort of memorial when the News Tribune goes belly up financially.

  3. Where is the outrage? How many cops does a person have to kill before the death penalty becomes mandatory? 2? 3? 4? 5? 100? I know that one isn’t enough here. Someone please tell me.

  4. Hoodsportwriter says:

    There are no words to describe how awful this was or to explain the feeling in the pit of my stomach over the deaths of these police officers.

    This animal will be captured and tried and I hope executed quickly. What can’t be forgotten is the failure of the criminal “justice” system and the fact we see this type of criminal show up in crime after crime – time after time. This guy was a child rapist with a long criminal record and had charges of assault on a police officer already filed against him. Why was he out of jail? The whole system is a mess. The prisons are a failure. The prisons are being used as mental institutions and non-violent criminals are taking space that violent criminal (like this guy) should be in.

    This isn’t a gun problem, a race problem, an education problem – it is a culture problem…something is very very very wrong with American culture and we have to figure out what it is…..

  5. huddybuddy says:

    I feel so bad for all the people involved in this situation, this is going to be a tough one to swallow, for months or even years to come. Just because you dont like cops doesn’t mean you can start killing them. Being a cop is a job, it doesn’t mean you should be hated for putting on a badge and a gun. If you don’t like dealing with cops maybe you shouldn’t break the law. I hope this guy is brought to justice thats something everyone in this country can be on the same page on.

  6. outtahere says:

    I, too, wonder if you will decry the “inconvenience” of any procession(s) for these murdered officers. Perhaps today you comprehend that the loss is not just of these lives, but of civil society. The murder of the parents of nine children, killed because we put them between us and savagery, is one that we do not take lightly. These are not just nameless faceless badges in blue uniforms. It’s a shame it took something like this for you to finally “get it”. Now put your big boy pants on, man up, and “do something” constructive….like actively fighting these asinine “catch and release” revolving door arrests and convictions. You are a newspaper editor. You represent (supposedly) the community. You have a voice. Use it.

  7. I just thank God that Gerald Horne is no longer Prosecutor. If he were, the killer would get off with a slap on the wrist and a Pension from L&I because the wounds he received were obtained in the execution of his job: Assasin.
    Attention Mr. Prosecutor: Hope that you took some notes from your mentor as to how NOT to prosecute cases. Anything less than DEATH X4 is unacceptable.
    We are a Law Enforcement family. Our prayers are for the families of these brave officers and for the protection of all members of the Police and Fire Community. Believe that we will be watching what happens and will respond accordingly.

  8. reformedliberal says:

    I see that there is a reward. Does that apply to accomplices? And can I collect the money if I turn in Judge van Doorninck?

  9. ShadowRider says:

    My prayers and feelings of how senseless this totally was go out to the families and friends of the fallen officers. I can’t imagine the grief, frustration and anger you must be going through. As far as the shooter, I hope the full extent of punishment comes to him once he is convicted. I know that it is a small portion of our society that make up these animals that do things like this, but we need to start demanding our system deal with these people and make our nation a safer place. Our elected officials and their liberal agendas allow these type of people to live among us. They need to be locked up forever, or terminated.

  10. Kevindot1 says:

    Nice piece, Patrick. My heart and thoughts go out to the family and co-workers of the deceased. Just a terribly sad day for our community.

  11. As a recent subscriber to the Tribune, I was disgusted by your opinion piece on Officer Brenton’s memorial. The snarky competition between Seattle and Tacoma had been amusing up until then. Now, maybe, you’ll understand how much pain a city feels when officers are assassinated on their own streets. How horrible that it takes such a tragedy for you to empathize with that kind of pain. And I think you’ll find that very few in your city will resent the “inconvenience ” of a final tribute to the amazing men and women who go to a job every day that you and I would never be able to do. Do you really believe that a few hours of your time is more valuable than a show of respect for the bravery and honor of officers who were gunned down?

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