This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
When the Lakewood’s four fallen police officers were memorialized on Dec. 8, few imagined there’d be a similar observance at the Tacoma Dome a scant four weeks later.
Today’s service for Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Kent Mundell is all the more poignant for honoring the sixth Puget Sound officer shot to death in the line of duty in less than two months. This shocking onslaught against law enforcement officers began Oct. 31 with the killing of Timothy Brenton of the Seattle Police Department and ended with Mundell’s shooting at a house near Tanwax Lake four days before Christmas.
Paradoxically, the number of police killed while on duty has been falling across the country. The 125 deaths recorded this year is the lowest toll in a half-century. But the six this region has seen since October account for a full 5 percent of that continent-wide 2009 death toll – an explosion of anti-police violence vastly out of proportion to the area’s, or even the state’s, population. We devoutly hope we’ve seen the end of such crimes.
Each of these deaths exacts a terrible price. Mundell the man was unique and irreplaceable. Consider some of the phrases his family, friends and fellow officers have used to describe him: “The guy was not just a friend, he was an experience” . . . “bigger than life” . . . “ever-sparkling smile” . . . “loved people” . . . “high-strung and hard-driven” . . . “funny as all hell.”
Mundell, also described as “wired as a thrill-seeker,” was a pilot, skier, scuba-diver, dirt-biking and snow-boarder. He’d tackled parasailing, jet-skiing, kite-boarding. Said one of his many friends, “His motto was, ‘If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.’”
He did much of his growing up in the Puyallup area, graduated from Rogers, married his high school sweetheart, doted on his 16-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. He maintained friendships for decades.
He had a most unusual résumé. He worked at civilian jobs, most notably as a manager at the Milgard plant in Fife, into his 30s. Then, on the brink of middle age, he left that life behind for law enforcement.
His final moments were heroic. He and Sgt. Nicholas Hausner had apparently calmed a domestic dispute and were coaxing David Edward Crable, 35, out of his brother’s home when Crable pulled out a pistol and opened fire. Hausner was hit in the neck (and is now recovering). Mundell then killed Crable despite being shot repeatedly in the process. Crable was obviously angry and trigger-happy; he may well have murdered everyone in the house if Mundell hadn’t stopped him.
Once again, a valiant officer and great human being has given his life protecting the public. May he be the last.