Inside Opinion

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Tag: Lakewood Police Department


The unbelievable crime of Skeeter Manos

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Imagine a briefcase full of cash on the sidewalk with the owner’s name on it. It’s open. People are walking by. What are the chances someone will pilfer some bills when he thinks no one’s looking?

That’s roughly what happened to the millions the public donated in an outpouring of sympathy for the families of the four Lakewood officers gunned down by Maurice Clemmons in 2009.
All told, $3.2 million in contributions flowed into the coffers of a charity created by the Lakewood Police Independent Guild. Skeeter Manos, an officer who’d insinuated himself into the finances of both the guild and the charity, had his hand in the till, embezzling $151,000 from – literally – the widows and orphans of four fellow cops.

A post-mortem of this shocking crime has been constructed by The News Tribune’s Christian Hill. Published Sunday, it details the negligence – particularly on the part of guild President Brian Wurts – that let Manos help himself to money he used for car gear, tickets to Las Vegas, electronics and other dainties.

Manos’ embezzlement is a cautionary tale for any institution entrusted with large sums of money. The police charity should have routed the money directly into a professionally managed trust fund. (It’s in one now.)

Instead, much of it wound up passing through the hands of Manos, who was treasurer of the guild and had begun skimming its funds months before Mark Renninger, Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards were gunned down in a Parkland coffee shop. The killings created an opening and Manos was poised to walk into it.

The deaths of the four had hit the Lakewood Police Department like a bomb; its officers were stunned and grieved – and simultaneously deluged with hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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Stealing from slain officers’ kids about as low as one can go

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

It’s hard to believe, but there is a bright side to the tawdry tale of a Lakewood police officer accused of embezzling money meant for the families of four murdered fellow officers.

It was yet another Lakewood officer, Jeremy Vahle, who got suspicious that money might have been diverted from the Fallen Officers’ Fund, a trust established to help the families of the four Lakewood officers shot to death in November 2000: Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards.

Instead of sweeping the embarrassment under the rug and handling it behind closed doors, the Lakewood Police Department faced it head-on. Under Chief Bret Farrar, evidence was gathered and presented to Pierce County prosecutors. They forwarded it to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney for further action.
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A crime and a loss beyond expression

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.
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