Just three years before he could choose to retire with full benefits, a Spokane police lieutenant known for his ability to coordinate large events died last week. His colleagues are now planning a large event to honor Lt. Jon “JD” Anderson at the Spokane Arena.
Anderson, 50, died Friday after he had gone to Providence Holy Family Hospital for medical tests. Chief Craig Meidl said he visited Anderson at the hospital on Thursday.
“Then Friday I was notified that morning that he had passed,” Meidl said. “When you were sitting there looking at him one day and he passes the next day, it’s very surreal. When someone suddenly passes away, it impacts you on so many levels.”
The cause of death remains a mystery. Meidl said an autopsy has been planned to determine how Anderson died. The ceremony honoring Anderson is set for 11 a.m. July 20 at at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
“JD is one of those guys, I can say with all sincerity, he was bigger than life,” Meidl said. “He was passionate about everything. Everything he did was full throttle.”
The son of former Spokane police Capt. Dave Anderson and Deanna Anderson, JD Anderson is survived by his wife, Michelle, and daughter, Jordyn. He also leaves behind two sisters, Kathryn Dobson and Vicki Anderson-Snider, who is married to Spokane police Officer Ryan Snider.
“You see people like that, you think this guy is going to be around forever,” Meidl said. “He had been with the department for 27 years. I felt like he had more energy at 27 years than when I first saw him a couple years on the force.”
Anderson, a Silver Star recipient for courageous actions above and beyond what is expected of officers, first worked for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office before joining the Spokane Police Department in 1992, just a few months after Capt. Brad Arleth.
“It’s terrible,” Arleth said. “It’s a shock when it’s not only someone you work with but somebody you’ve worked with for so long.”
Anderson had worked multiple assignments within the department, including supervising patrol and planning for major events, such as Hoopfest, Bloomsday and NCAA Tournament games.
Arleth, who served with Anderson on the executive board of the Lieutenants and Captains Association, had talked to Anderson just before July 4.
“You just don’t expect that stuff to clobber you out of left field,” Arleth said. “In addition to all the people here who worked with him, he has a wife and a daughter. At that age, you just don’t expect that to happen. It’s a shock.”
Retired Lt. Joe Walker worked decades with Anderson before Walker retired in 2017.
“I will tell you that JD Anderson was definitely the hardest working guy. Hoopfest, Bloomsday, NCAA basketball, he was responsible for setting up the programs, the traffic plans and almost everything,” Walker said. “He always wanted to make sure he gave his best effort. Unfortunately, I think he carried the work with him.”
Arleth, Meidl and Walker all said that the stresses of the job are hard to avoid.
“Police officers in general have the specter of the unknown everyday,” Arleth said. “You switch your body physiology from dealing with kids who want to play basketball to a severe traffic crash with a pedestrian to a barricaded subject. It’s a constant shifting of gears. Those types of stressors can affect the body.”
Meidl said a recent study by the National Institute of Health found that police officers, on average, die about 22 years before members of the general public.
In addition to all of his activities, Anderson was the member of the command staff who always made sure to let others know when former Spokane officers, Spokane County deputies or fellow officers from across the state had died.
“He really was at the peak of his career,” Meidl said. “He had overseen a traffic unit, oversaw our honor guard and was working out of the North Precinct and was dealing with neighborhood-specific crime-fighting techniques. He was all in on everything he did.”
Walker said he had spoken to Anderson just recently.
“Every time I see his face, I can’t even believe it. You still see him and can’t believe that he’s gone,” Walker said. “It’s so sad. He just had a couple more years. He didn’t even get to the finish line.”