Three years after a gunman murdered four Lakewood Police officers in a Parkland coffee shop, the business has become a destination for law enforcement across the nation to pay their respects.
In a way, we never saw this coming, said Courtney Marshall, owner of Blue Steele Coffee Company, formerly named Forza Coffee. This is a place people feel they need to come to.
Marshall frequently sees officers stopping by to pay respects to the Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Tina Griswold, Greg Richards and Ronald Owens, who were murdered while starting their day over a cup of coffee in a booth at the center of the shop on Nov. 29, 2009.
For fellow officers, the visit is somber. There are several memorials posted at the coffee shop including one with the officers pictures.
For every visit to the shop, officers leave a patch for their respective departments. Marshall sorts through a box of patches that serves as overflow from the collection posted on the coffee shop wall. She has patches from as far away as California, Texas and Florida.
We just had a retired police officer come in yesterday. It s taken him years to come in, Marshall said. He said he felt better talking with everyone and just being here to see it.
Marshall, who was a manager at the time of the killings, said the officers families have been supportive of her efforts to memorialize them, including the creation of a scholarship fund for students interested in a career in law enforcement.
While she knows it s a sensitive subject, she doesn t want the community to forget.
We don t want to put their deaths in the past, she said. I feel like they are still watching out for us in a way.
To honor the officers on the three-year anniversary of their deaths, the Lakewood Police Department will hold the Fallen Officers Food Drive on Thursday. An opening ceremony was scheduled for 8 a.m. at the Lakewood Police Station, 9401 Lakewood Drive Southwest.
The manhunt for the officers' killer, Maurice Clemmons, ended two days after the shooting when he was shot and killed by a Seattle Police officer.