LAKEWOOD, Wash. –- Lakewood city and police officials called the shooting deaths of four of their police officers in a coffee shop on Sunday a horrific act of senseless violence.
The mayor, city manager and police chief of the Tacoma suburb held a brief news conference Monday to talk about the city’s loss. They gathered outside city offices, with dozens of members of the police force standing with them.
Police Chief Bret Farrar said many people have asked how they are doing. Gesturing to the officers behind him, many of them visibly grieving, he said: "This is how everyone's doing. They're here, they're working hard, they're doing their job."
Farrar said the small police department, which was formed in 2004, was determined to soldier on despite losing four of their original members.
Losing one officer to a killer is painful; losing four is almost unbearable. But Lakewood's small police department blinked back tears and vowed to move forward in honor of their fallen officers: Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens, Mark Renninger and Greg Richards.
Between the four of them, they leave behind nine children. Chief Farrar has now visited with each family.
“It’s the hardest thing I've ever done, and I hope I never have to do it again," he said.
His grief is mirrored by the community members the four officers had pledged to protect. Outside the police department, a memorial overflowing with thousands of flowers, burning candles and heartfelt notes continues to grow.
"My heart aches for these people. And it's just so sad, terrible, heart breaking," said Michelle Icenogle.
"I'm a former corrections officer and this hits home. It really just bothers me that someone could do this," said Tito Brown.
With the only suspect still on the loose, more than 24 hours after the coffee house killings, the Lakewood Police Guild president couldn’t disguise his dismay.
“I can't believe he was out on the street. If that is true, i think this country needs to get together and figure out why these people are out," said Brian Wurts, Lake Police Guild president.
Meanwhile, there is a effort to provide the officers' families some ecomonic stability. A fund for their families has been set up and already drawing international donations.
A benevolent account has been established for the families of the slain officers. Donations may be sent to LPIG Benevolent Fund at PO Box 99579, Lakewood, WA 98499. You can also CLICK HERE to submit donations online or go to any Bank of American branch location.