OLYMPIA – State officials marked the deadliest year for law enforcement in generations Friday with bagpipes and drums, prayers and speeches, and the posthumous awarding of seven Medals of Honor.
Law enforcement officers from cities and counties around Washington joined state troopers and Royal Canadian Mounties in donning dress uniforms and marching past the state Law Enforcement Memorial on the Capitol campus. Bagpipers played “Amazing Grace,” a bugler played taps and a line of seven state troopers fired three volleys.
As several hundred law enforcement officials and family members watched, Gov. Chris Gregoire and Attorney General Rob McKenna presented medals to the families of seven officers killed in 2009, and to three officers who were seriously injured.
“Seven line-of-duty deaths made this the deadliest year in more than 70 years,” Gregoire said. Nov. 29, when four Lakewood police officers were slain while preparing for their shift, was one of the deadliest days in the nation that year.
She placed the medals around the necks of the spouses of the slain officers “on behalf of a grateful state … for recognition of the ultimate sacrifice.”
State Medals of Honor were awarded posthumously to Lewis County sheriff’s Deputy Stephen Michael Gallagher Jr., who died Aug. 18 of injuries suffered when his patrol car collided with an elk while he was on his way to back up another officer at a domestic disturbance call; Seattle Officer Timothy Brenton, who was shot to death in his patrol car in an ambush on Halloween; Lakewood police Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens II and Gregory Richards, all killed by parolee Maurice Clemmons on Nov. 29; and Pierce County sheriff’s Deputy W. Kent Mundell Jr., who died after being shot by a suspect in a domestic disturbance in Eatonville on Dec. 21.
Washington hadn’t lost so many law enforcement officers since 1935, when eight were killed.
Seattle Officer Britt Sweeney, who was wounded in the patrol car with Brenton, and Pierce County Sgt. Nicholas Hausner, who was wounded in the domestic disturbance that claimed Mundell, were among seven officers receiving Medals of Honor for their injuries.
McKenna said that what stands out in his mind more than the tragedy is the courage of the officers to stay on the job and the gratitude of residents who lined the streets and sidewalks for services honoring the dead.
“Our communities don’t forget, and they don’t intend to let future generations forget,” he said.