Thousands Mourn Four Slain Police Officers

December 10, 2009
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imageTACOMA, Wash – Thousands gathered in what was the largest funeral procession in Washington State history, to pay honor to four hero’s.

Moving tributes to the four slain Lakewood, Wash., police officers were delivered by co-workers, friends and their children at Tuesday?s memorial service at the Tacoma Dome.

Austin Richards, the 16-year-old son of Greg Richards, said his father viewed his job as an honor despite the stresses inherent to law enforcement work.

“He didn?t become more hardened or angry, just more thankful,” Richards said. “I guess you could say he didn?t see the point in anger.”

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In moments heart-wrenching and funny, Michael Villa described Sgt. Mark Renninger tracking a suspect without the help of a K-9 unit, twice guessing correctly which way the suspect had fled.

“I remember thinking, ?Who is this guy? We don?t need a K-9 unit. We have the man tracker on our crew,? ” said Villa, now the assistant police chief in Tukwila.

Tina Griswold was described by her friend as being a dedicated mother, good cook and as tough an officer ? pound-for-pound ? as could be found. “The fastest way to break up a bar fight was to throw Tina in the middle of it,” said Pamela Battersby, Griswold?s friend.

Ronnie Owens? sister, Ronda LaFrancois, remembered her brother hamming it up in high school, break dancing on the kitchen floor and singing Barry Manilow songs.

“You could never go anywhere with Ronnie without someone knowing who he was,” said LaFrancois. Owens, she said, had been looking forward to watching his young daughter?s first basketball season.

After a 20-minute video full of snapshots of four officers? childhoods, weddings, family moments and on-the-job events, Gov. Chris Gregoire said the state would honor their memory by continuing to support law enforcement.

“We will remember them today. We will remember them always. We owe these children ? all nine of them ? a future that is safe and secure,” Gregoire said.

The eulogies were delivered on a stage surrounded by four flag-draped caskets and a crowd of nearly 20,000 law enforcement officers, who watched mostly in silence, except for moments of applause and laughter.

The memorial service began as officers from around North America crisply saluted the families ? including the nine children ? of the slain officers as they were seated for a service expected to last more than three hours.

The memorial was preceded by a procession of about 2,000 law enforcement vehicles, red-and-blue lights flashing, that began at 10:05 a.m. PST. It crawled along a somber, 10.3-mile route from McChord Air Force Base to the Tacoma Dome.

The procession, which took three-and-a-half hours, was so sprawling that the tail end was still at the base at 1:30 p.m., a half-hour after the memorial was scheduled to begin. The service began more than an hour later than planned.

Gregoire had called it “the darkest day in the history of law enforcement in Washington.”

The enormous contingent represented more than 300 agencies and thousands of law enforcement officers, among them an estimated 600 from British Columbia, 100 each from Chicago and New York, and others from Boston; Bozeman, Mont.; Salem, Ore.; and every corner of Washington state. FBI Director Robert Mueller planned to attend.

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Photo: AP

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