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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Violence may be everywhere but that doesn't make it less shocking when it happens in your own backyard

When I think of Santa Cruz I think about the Boardwalk, the redwood forests I drive through on HWY 17 to get there, the Penny Ice Creamery, and the downtown shopping promenade on Pacific Avenue. I also think of sea lions, pelicans, surfers, sunsets and all of my friends who live in or near this idyllic city.


What I don't think about when I think of Santa Cruz is violence. . .

Click image to view on the Santa Cruz Sentinel Website

Or SWAT teams . . .

Click image to view on the Santa Cruz Sentinel Website

Massive emergency response from the Police, Sheriff's department, CHP, FBI, or multiple agencies from around the county.

Click image to view on the Santa Cruz Sentinel Website

And I've never before thought of officers walking around city streets with guns drawn.

But now I will and so will many of the residents of Santa Cruz because two days ago tragedy struck when for the first time in the history of the police force, 150 years to be exact, an officer was killed in the line of duty. And not just one, but two officers lost their lives. Officers who were taken from their families, children, and loved ones. It breaks my heart.


Sergeant Loran "Butch" Baker (a 28 year veteran) and Detective Elizabeth Butler (a 10 year veteran) were shot and killed by a deranged/desperate/evil man. Apparently officers Baker and Butler didn't realize they were in immanent danger when they went to interview the suspect. They were there to question him about a sexual assault complaint but didn't know that by at least one account (his own father's) he had sworn he would never go back to jail.  He had spent time in jail for voyeurism in 2008, was brought up on a weapons charge/attempted murder related to that event that the jury acquitted him of, served his time, and had been released.

The alleged shooter who had three guns (two belonged to the slain officers) left the scene and was killed approximately 30 minutes later in a hail of gunfire after opening fire when cornered by police.

I'm all for giving people second chances but sadly we know some people are not deserving of them. It's a fine line and one that I try very hard to not become cynical of when things like this happen because it's not fair to those who have learned from their mistakes and won't ever reoffend.


I guess the question is what can family members or friends do when they know in their heart someone is, as this suspect was, an inevitable "ticking time bomb." Is there a way for their names to be put on some kind of list so that officers responding to complaints involving them will know they need to be more careful than usual? Would such a list be legal? At the very least communities can start reporting crimes when they know something. We all know people being unwilling to become involved in reporting crimes is a national problem.

And where does this leave Santa Cruz? With a recent chain of violent crimes including a fatal, downtown, drive by shooting, a young woman surviving being robbed and shot in the head while waiting for a bus, and a home invasion robbery, the city's reputation as a fun in the sun surf town has been shaken to its core.


I'm not a betting woman but I'm betting that the city and its people will take action and work very hard to restore the idyllic reputation of this wonderful place. I simply can't imagine the citizens of Santa Cruz sitting back and accepting this surge in violence as their new status quo. They love their city too much and must feel completely bewildered by these recent events.

I, like everyone else, simply wish what will surely be a large push towards making the city safer and raising community awareness hadn't had to come at such a terrible cost to all of the victims.

For now, all I feel I can do is to offer my most heartfelt condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of Officers Baker and Butler and refuse to let these random crimes stop me from visiting Santa Cruz whenever, wherever, and for however Iong I want to visit.

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