A total of four officers had been shot and killed in Pierce County over the past 30 years. That toll doubled Sunday morning when a cold-blooded assassin entered a coffee shop and executed four Lakeland, Wash., police officers.
The deaths of Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and Officers Ronald Owens, 37, Tina Griswold, 40, and Greg Richards, 42, will leave the Lakeland Police Department with permanent scars. But they weren’t just officers. Three fathers and one mother were killed. Nine children are grieving the loss of parents.
There is no explanation for why these officers were gunned down. It appears to be a random act, which has to be terrifying for all members of law enforcement. The fear that lurks in the backs of officers’ minds – and those of their families – has been shoved to the forefront.
This massacre comes after the slaying of Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton, who was shot while sitting in his patrol car on Halloween night.
Such shootings are so rare that condolences are pouring in from around the globe, according to Lights & Sirens, the police beat blog of the News Tribune in Tacoma. Tens of thousands of people have joined social network pages set up in memoriam.
At present, the focus must be on capturing the culprit and any accomplices. As of Monday afternoon, there had been no arrests. While all murders are horrific, the slaying of officers is an attack on public safety itself. It is an affront to the order we rely on as we go about our daily lives.
In time, the criminal justice system will have to answer the tough questions. If the killer was Maurice Clemmons, why wasn’t he already locked up? He had a lengthy criminal record and there were reports of recent erratic behavior. As Brian Wurts, president of the Lakewood police officers guild, said, “I can’t believe he was out on the street.”
Nine years ago in Arkansas, Clemmons’ sentence was commuted by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee. That made him eligible for parole, which he was granted.
Such shocking events have the power to render us powerless. What can we say? What can we do? But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The best course for Inland Northwest residents is to tell officers that you are sorry about what happened. Despite the headlines about the controversial acts of some officers, law enforcement should be respected for its dedication to keeping us safe. Officers hardly needed this reminder of the dangerous nature of their work, but they would probably appreciate hearing that the people they protect and serve have them in their thoughts and prayers.
We certainly do, and we offer heartfelt condolences.