Her nickname was Tinkerbell, for her tiny stature, tireless energy and fierce loyalty to family and fellow officers.





Her nickname was Tinkerbell, for her tiny stature, tireless energy and fierce loyalty to family and fellow officers.

Lakewood police Officer Tina Griswold, 40, told friends that she loved being a cop. And during her 14 years in law enforcement, she impressed those who knew her with her toughness and willingness to take on any challenge.

“She was a little ball of fire,” said Matt Brown, a fellow Lakewood officer. “As small as she was, she was one of the biggest cops I knew. She would go into anything, anywhere.”

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Officer Griswold, a mother of two, was one of four Lakewood officers shot to death Nov. 29 as they sat in a local coffee shop before their shift. Friends say they often saw Officer Griswold and other Lakewood officers on their breaks or working on their laptops around town.

“It could have been any one of us. We all go out for coffee,” said Ken Kollmann, who worked with Officer Griswold in the Lacey Police Department.

Officer Griswold was born in Port Angeles and grew up in Shelton. She graduated from Shelton High School in 1987.

She considered a career in the military, but decided to marry her high-school sweetheart, said her mother, Genie DeLong. Their daughter Nicole was born in 1988. The marriage failed, and Officer Griswold and her daughter moved back home for a time.

“Tina struggled,” DeLong said. “She was a single mom, and she just didn’t realize her potential.”

Officer Griswold’s father had worked in law enforcement and corrections. His daughter followed in his footsteps. She worked as a 911 dispatcher in Shelton and then applied to be a reserve city police officer. But her small size — 4 feet, 11 inches and about 100 pounds — made other recruits skeptical.

She prepared for the reserve’s fitness test by undertaking an intensive training regimen. When it came time to do the minimum 30 push-ups, her mother said some of the other officers asked out loud if she planned to do “girlie push-ups.”

Officer Griswold told them to start counting. She did the same type as the men, and when she had exceeded 30, she kept on going until the other recruits started clapping and cheering her on.

“That’s the way it was for Tina,” DeLong said. “She won people over.”

Officer Griswold became a commissioned Shelton police officer in 1995. She hadn’t been on the job long when a call came into 911 that a child had stolen a police car. The “child” was Officer Griswold, and she was mercilessly teased about the incident.

“We kidded her that we could get her two phone books to sit on or a booster seat,” said Harry Heldreth, a Shelton patrol officer.

Officer Griswold joined the Lacey Police Department in 1999. In 2003, she became the department’s first woman officer — and one of only a handful of women officers in the state — to complete SWAT basic training.

“She was tough as nails and incredibly hardworking,” said John Suessman, Lacey Police Department’s commander of support services. She was also funny and had an ear-to-ear smile, he said

“Big, bad, mean people would turn to her and start cooperating,” he said. “She was one of our stars.”

Officer Griswold joined Lakewood’s new police force in 2004. She worked at Mann Middle School as a school resource officer for the next four years. She participated in a federal anti-gang initiative that helps students develop positive relationships and avoid delinquency.

Loraine Curry, a sixth-grade teacher at Mann, remembers the time a student brought a gun to school. She said Officer Griswold raced down the hall, took the gun and calmed everyone.

“I was in shock, but she said, ‘It’s OK.’ She was very confident, very calming,” Curry said. “We felt safe with her in the building.”

Officer Griswold befriended the staff and brought in samples of new recipes — tortilla soup, meatloaf, curries. She took some of the staff to a police benefit dance where she pulled girlfriends onto the dance floor. She brought in pictures of her son Marcus, now 9, for Rose Scheidt, a Mann secretary who didn’t have grandchildren.

Mann staff said Officer Griswold became another educator at the school. She talked to students about making good choices, about having the power to change their lives. She told them that some choices she’d made as a teenager took her in the wrong direction. She told them that they could turn their life into what they wanted it to be.

“She showed them that even though she was small, she could do a big job,” said Sonia Miller, another secretary at Mann Middle School.

While working at Mann, she met her current husband, Paul Griswold, who was stationed at Fort Lewis. Paul grew up in Kansas and served two tours of duty in Iraq.

She told friends that the first time they saw each other, in the parking lot of Paul’s church, the attraction was “instantaneous.” They were married on her birthday, Jan. 28, 2007.

Officer Griswold loved working with children, but told friends she missed being on the streets. She returned to patrol in summer 2008. She also became involved in politics, attending some Tea Party rallies at the state Capitol this year to protest health-care proposals, Lakewood Police Guild President Brian Wurts said.

While Officer Griswold no longer worked at Mann, the staff there said that during the past school year, she would pull her patrol car into the school parking lot, race in with her ear pressed to her shoulder radio and find out how everyone was doing. She told them her daughter and son were fine, that she and Paul were doing well. She then would race back to her patrol car.

Scheidt was at a Christmas play in Seattle on the afternoon of the shootings. When she returned from intermission, a friend put a hand over hers. The friend had received a text message that said one of the dead officers was “a little blond with a pony tail.”

“My Tina,” Scheidt said.

Officer Griswold is survived by husband Paul, daughter Nicole, son Marcus, parents Genie and Stan DeLong of Post Falls, Idaho, brother Thomas DeLong of Port Angeles, and sisters Tammy, Teresa and Tiffany.

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com