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Santa Cruz reeling after 2 police detectives killed in shootout

February 28, 2013 |  3:49 am
PHOTOS: Two Santa Cruz police officers killed

Santa Cruz was in mourning after two police detectives were killed in a shootout Tuesday.

The city's Police Department, which has less than 100 sworn officers, had operated for 150 years without losing a single one in the line of duty. Until Tuesday afternoon, when two veteran detectives in plainclothes walked up to Jeremy Goulet's house as part of a misdemeanor sexual assault investigation.

Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker, 51, and Det. Elizabeth Butler, 38, were killed on Goulet's doorstep, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak said during a news conference near an impromptu memorial at police headquarters.

PHOTOS: Two Santa Cruz police officers killed

"We don't know all that happened when they came into contact with Goulet," said Wowak, whose department is leading the investigation so Santa Cruz police can mourn. "We do know what was left in the aftermath."

"Thank you for your service Santa Cruz Police Department. RIP Detective Baker. RIP Detective Butler." That's what Mary Gregg wrote in neat black letters on yellow construction paper, hanging her message in the window of the downtown check-cashing store where she works.

"Something," she felt, "had to be said today."

Best known for its surfing museum and a roller coaster that Bay Area newspaper columnist Herb Caen described as "one long shriek," Santa Cruz is not used to the kind of pain that rippled through town the day after a gunfight left two veteran detectives — and the man they were investigating — dead.

The 35-year-old Goulet, who had a long history of run-ins with the law, killed and disarmed the detectives before fleeing in Baker's car, Wowak said. Law enforcement officers from throughout the region began a sweep of the Santa Cruz neighborhood where Baker and Butler were slain. A short time later, Goulet ditched the car and tried to flee on foot.

In the ensuing gun battle, Wowak said, Goulet shot up a firetruck, sending firefighters, medical personnel and passersby scrambling. After killing the suspect, authorities discovered Goulet had been wearing body armor and had three guns.

"It is our belief that two of the three weapons belonged to the Santa Cruz Police Department, but we haven't confirmed it," said Wowak, adding that it was still unclear whether Goulet had taken the body armor from Baker's car or had it on before the shooting broke out.

"We know now that he was distraught," the sheriff said. "We know now that he had the intention of harming himself and possibly the police. ... There's no doubt in anyone's mind that the officers who engaged Goulet stopped an imminent threat to the community."

Goulet had been arrested Friday on suspicion of disorderly conduct. Local news accounts said he had broken into the home of a co-worker and had been fired from his job at The Kind Grind coffeehouse Saturday. A manager at the beachfront shop declined to comment Wednesday.

According to Goulet's father, the barista — who recently had moved from Berkeley to Santa Cruz — was a ticking time bomb who held police and the justice system in deep contempt. Ronald Goulet, 64, told the Associated Press that his son had had numerous run-ins with the law and had sworn he would never go back to jail.

But the elder Goulet said he never thought his troubled son would turn to such violence.

Goulet said his son undermined any success he had in the military (he reportedly was a member of the Marine Corps Reserves and later the Army) or college because of an insatiable desire to peep in the windows of women as they showered or dressed.

"He's got one problem, peeping in windows," his father said. "I asked him, 'Why don't you just go to a strip club?' He said he wants a good girl that doesn't know she's being spied on, and said he couldn't stop doing it."

In 2008, a Portland, Ore., jury convicted Jeremy Goulet on misdemeanor counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and invasion of personal privacy after he peeked into a woman's bathroom as she showered, said Don Rees, a chief deputy district attorney in Multnomah County.

Goulet faced additional charges, including attempted murder, after he allegedly fired a gun at the woman's boyfriend. The two had fought after Goulet was spotted outside the woman's condo, but a jury acquitted him of those charges, Rees said.

During the trial, Goulet admitted that he liked to use his cellphone to record unsuspecting women undressing, according to the Oregonian newspaper. Prosecutors alleged he had peeped at women "hundreds of times" without getting caught.

Goulet was given three years' probation, Rees said, but spent time in jail after his probation was revoked.

As law enforcement officials Wednesday released new details of the unprecedented police killings, residents struggled to come to terms with what they said was the latest in a spate of high-profile acts of violence.

Earlier this month, a 21-year-old woman was beaten and raped while walking on the campus of UC Santa Cruz. Just days earlier, a UC Santa Cruz student had been shot in the head during a robbery at a bus stop on the city's west side. And a few weeks ago, a young man was gunned down in front of the Red Room, a popular downtown nightspot

Denise Paris Shaw, 58, has lived in Santa Cruz her entire life. Four generations of her family have graduated from Santa Cruz High School. Butler and Baker's deaths, she said, were "the most devastating thing I've seen."

Shaw's husband, Michael, was driving not far from Goulet's residence when the shootings began. Denise, a retired special education teacher, was home following the unfolding violence on television. The first thing she did was call her husband and say: "Two officers have been shot. You need to get home right now. The suspect is on the loose."

The more she watched, the more worried she became. "I had a feeling it was bad," she said, "when EMTs went in with two gurneys and came out with two gurneys and they were empty."

The Shaws keep an altar in their living room, dedicated to people they know who have died. Michael's father was a sheriff's lieutenant 50 years ago. When Michael got home, they put his father's badge on the altar. They lit a candle. And Michael began to sob.

On Wednesday, Denise Shaw brought a bouquet of red and white roses to the makeshift memorial at police headquarters. She laid it alongside the chocolate-filled hearts, candles and handwritten notes. She listened as local officials gave voice to the city's grief.

"They weren't just officers," Mayor Hilary Bryant said of Baker and Butler. "They were our friends. Our neighbors. They had families in our schools."

Police Chief Kevin Vogel, trembling and close to tears, said: "Today is one of the darkest days in the history of the department.

"We're having a tough time with this. We're doing the best job that we know how. It's been devastating. There are absolutely no words for me to describe what this department is going through."

He paused. And remembered one more thing he had to do.

"This is going to be hard," he said. Then he held up photographs of the slain officers, his detectives, his friends.

His hands shook.

ALSO:

Suspects allegedly kidnap man, force him to drive to strip club

Santa Cruz killings: Gunman took officers’ weapons, police say

Gunman who killed 2 Santa Cruz cops wore body armor, police say

-- Lee Romney in Santa Cruz and Maria LaGanga in San Francisco

Photo: Sky Hall leaves flowers in front of the Santa Cruz Police Department on Wednesday at a memorial for two police detectives who were killed Tuesday. Suspect Jeremy Goulet, 35, was shot and killed by officers. Credit: Thomas Mendoza / Associated Press

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