A steady stream of people came to pay their respects to the fallen officers — parents with infants and old people with canes, men in business suits and a couple in biker leathers, teenagers in sweat pants and in skinny jeans. And standing guard, in the empty parking lot outside Forza Coffee, dozens of police...
Police Monday night opened the street outside the Parkland coffee shop where four police officers were shot dead Sunday morning. By noon on Tuesday, the grassy corner was lined with bouquets of flowers, their cellophane wrappers rattling in the cold wind.
A steady stream of people came to pay their respects to the fallen officers — parents with infants and old people with canes, men in business suits and a couple in biker leathers, teenagers in sweat pants and in skinny jeans. And standing guard, in the empty parking lot outside Forza Coffee, dozens of police officers from a half-dozen nearby towns — Milton, Sumner, Puyallup, Des Moines, University Place and Graham.
One mourner, Joe Smith of Spanaway, wore a blue bandanna on his head and with an eagle feather waved smoke from a smudge pot over the length of the growing memorial. A member of the Oklahoma Peoria tribe, Smith said he had heard the devastating news Sunday morning at a local gas station and wanted to offer a Native American prayer.
He chanted and swept the smoke that burned from a coil of twisted tobacco leaves, grandfather sage, lavender and cedar bark. After he had crouched and chanted over each memory book with a slain officer’s name inscribed on the cover, he translated his prayer.
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“They came in a good way,” he said, meaning that the officers’ lives were dedicated to public service. He repeated each officer’s name: Mark Renninger, Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Gregory Richards. “Take them home in a good way,” he continued. “Help the community to heal.”
Barbara Gilreath, a Sea-Tac Fire Department chaplain, had set out the memory books that morning so visitors could write words of condolence to the surviving family members. In all, the officers left nine children behind.
“People want to come where it happened,” Gilreath said. “They can write what’s on their hearts and it will be very healing for the families.”
Debbie Piper, of Tacoma, carefully placed a single white rose and then a single red one on the growing display of flowers. She spoke of the officers’ being killed as they were doing paperwork before their Sunday shifts. “They were not prepared,” she said.
Several miles away, at the Lakewood Police Department, another memorial spread up the hillside outside the brick station. There were large funeral wreaths from local businesses, teddy bears and stuffed ducks that will ultimately be delivered to the officers’ children, flickering votive candles and other candles that had burned down, spilling their melted wax onto the sidewalk.
Police funneled traffic to a single lane outside the station, and dozens of people stood quietly in the street.
Wendy Galan, who lives and works in Lakewood, knew Officer Griswold. Coincidentally, she said, they were both 4 feet 11 inches tall. Griswold, she said, was strong and feisty.
“I was hoping it wasn’t her. When I saw her picture, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach,” Galan said.
Lakewood police officers came out from the station and took pictures of the memorial. They hugged each other and hugged the officers from neighboring towns who were directing traffic and standing guard.
An officer from Des Moines put his arms around two from Lakewood. “You guys be safe out there,” he said.
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org