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Slain Santa Cruz officers honored

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POSTED March 7, 2013 9:04 p.m.



SAN JOSE (AP) — She was an adventurer, a traveler who loved her small beach town and spent weekends enjoying its parks and beaches with her partner and two young boys.

He was a sports fan who fell in love with his wife, persuaded his only son to follow him into police service, and was starting to talk about retiring.

The portraits were painted by colleagues who honored Santa Cruz police Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker, 51, and Officer Elizabeth Butler, 38, on Thursday, just over a week after the detectives were shot and killed during a routine investigation of a former soldier with a criminal past.

"Two heroes, two friends, taken from us far too soon at the hands of a madman," said Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel. "Someone sick and unstable, and yet someone who would have gotten a fair shake from Elizabeth and Butch had he just given them a chance."

The shots that echoed through the quiet residential neighborhood on Feb. 26 sent ripples through the small California beach town, as well as law enforcement and first responders statewide.

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Baker and Butler were "a perfect fit for Santa Cruz," a place he described as "sometimes a little offbeat, sometimes a little different, but always, always a place where people enjoy life for what it is and share in the sense that our lives are secure."

A solemn convoy of several hundred police officers, firefighters and emergency medical staff left the Pacific shore Thursday morning and wound its way, lights flashing, over the redwood-forested Santa Cruz mountains in a somber procession.

Community members and law enforcement officials lined the procession route past the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to salute family members in limousines before the procession departed for a memorial ceremony in San Jose, 30 miles away.

"It's sad that building community comes from tragedy, but at the same time, here we are, standing together," Santa Cruz resident Margie Way said. "It's just ever so sad."

Gov. Jerry Brown joined about 6,000 people, mostly law enforcement and first responders, who gathered in HP Pavilion for the memorial. A few hundred more gathered in a basketball arena in Santa Cruz, watching a live stream.

"These officers were doing something I've done hundreds, if not thousands of times," said Tustin police Capt. Mike Shanahan, who drove 400 miles to represent his agency. "We're all thinking, there but for the grace of God go I."

Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend, who previously worked as a crime analyst and spokesman for the police department, said the officers' deaths should mark a shift.

"We really need a new beginning," Friend said. "A rebirth between the community and the police department, a new commitment to supporting public safety as we move forward."

Also paying tribute was American Idol star James Durbin, a Santa Cruz local, who first met Baker when he chaperoned his high school dances. Durbin sang an emotional version of "Arms Wide Open" as his voice rang throughout the arena.

Baker and Butler were the first Santa Cruz police officers killed in the line of duty. A scholarship fund has been launched for the families.

Authorities allege that when the detectives went to Jeremy Goulet's door, he went out another exit and ambushed them with a .45-caliber handgun.

Laid off just days earlier, Goulet, 35, had a passport and an airplane ticket to New Mexico when he died a short time later.

Baker, who had been with the department for 28 years, is survived by his wife, son and two daughters. His son is a Santa Cruz police officer.

Friend and former colleague Jeff Rosell, a chief deputy district attorney for Santa Cruz County, described Baker as a consummate police officer who even as a child "would arrest and then handcuff his stuffed animals."

Rosell added that during an evening walk with his wife, Baker once headed toward a Cliffside path where he sniffed the air and peered into the rocks below as he walked. When his wife asked what was going on, he told her he was searching for a potential homicide victim.

"That was Butch Baker multitasking," Rosell said.

Butler, a 10-year veteran of the department, is survived by her longtime partner, Peter Wu, and their two young sons. As he held their 5-year-old son, Joaquin, up to the podium, Wu told mourners that the officer was the love of his life.

As their oldest son clutched a small teddy bear and a large police uniform cap slid over his eyes, his 2-year-old brother, Stellan, slept through the service, lying in the arms of his weeping grandmother, Louise Butler.

Wu added that the children "will always know what a great person their mom was."

"We will miss you so much," Wu said. "Goodbye, my love."

 

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