SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — A quiet seaside community in California known for its surfing and liberal attitudes erupted in violence when two detectives were shot and killed while trying to question a sex crime suspect who later died in a police shootout.
The Santa Cruz police chief said Tuesday’s bloodshed in the city made it the darkest day in the department’s history.
Sgt. Loran Butch Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler were shot and killed outside the home of coffee shop worker Jeremy Goulet, 35, who was suspected of making inappropriate sexual advances toward a co-worker at her home, authorities said.
The shootout occurred about 60 miles south of San Francisco in the town with world-class surf spots, historic downtown with bookstores and coffee shops, and the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Its boardwalk is a major summer draw for tourists hoping to escape inland heat or enjoy a classic California experience.
Lately, the city of 60,000 people had seen a spike in assaults that community leaders had planned to address Tuesday during a downtown rally that was cancelled along with a City Council meeting by teary-eyed leaders after they learned of the deaths.
“There aren’t words to describe this horrific tragedy,” said Police Chief Kevin Vogel.
The mid-afternoon shooting about a mile from the boardwalk prompted the lockdown of two schools and an automated police call to nearby residents, warning them to stay locked inside. The ordinarily quiet neighborhood echoed with a brief barrage of gunfire that killed the suspect about a half-hour after the officers were shot.
A store clerk a few buildings from the shooting said the shootout was terrifying.
“We ducked. We have big desks so under the desks we went,” said the clerk, who spoke on condition of anonymity and asked that her store not be identified because she feared for her safety.
In May 2008, Goulet was convicted in Portland, Ore., of peeping on a 22-year-old woman who was showering in her condominium, and of carrying a concealed weapon, according to The Oregonian newspaper.
Goulet had been on probation but was later sentenced to two years in jail after a dispute with his probation officer.
His father, Ronald Goulet, of Rosamond, Calif., told the San Francisco Chronicle that his son had texted his twin brother to say he was in trouble. He may have been reluctant to return to jail but had never been violent, Ronald Goulet said of his son.
“Why was he on the run? I’m just trying to hang with it, to make sense of it,” he said.
Baker, a 28-year veteran of the force, and Butler, a 10-year veteran, had been shot at and called for backup before arriving officers found Goulet, who was killed after opening fire on them, authorities said.
A concrete wall at the site was riddled with bullet holes and splattered with blood. The shots on the wall and a garage were marked with identifying letters placed by police that went from “A” to “K.”
Baker’s son, Adam Baker, served as a community service officer, and father and son had mailboxes side-by-side at the Police Department.
Loran Baker told the Santa Cruz Sentinel in 2010 that his son’s choice to pursue a career in law enforcement surprised him, but he saw glimpses of himself in Adam.
Loran Baker said he told his son to work hard for the department.
“It’s a great community to be a cop,” he said. “You don’t get bored.”
Butler came to Santa Cruz to study at the university and stayed, the newspaper said.
“You have to be a people person down here,” she told the newspaper in a 2005 interview. “I really do know people’s names.”
After the shootings, police went door-to-door in the neighborhood, searching homes, garages, even closets, to determine whether there might be additional suspects.
Law enforcement officers filled intersections, and helicopters and light aircraft patrolled the neighborhood.
Mayor Hilary Bryant said the community was “heartbroken at the loss of two of our finest police officers who were killed in the line of duty, protecting the community we love.”
The recent violence in Santa Cruz included the killing of a 32-year-old martial arts instructor who was shot outside a popular downtown bar and restaurant; the robbery of a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was shot in the head; a 21-year-old woman who was raped and beaten on the UC campus; and a couple who fought off two men during a home invasion.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.