Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker, left, and Detective Elizabeth Butler
Photo credit: AP Photo/Santa Cruz Sentinel
A procession of police officers from supporting agencies, coming from Santa Cruz heads north on Hwy 17 near Bear Creek Road on their way to HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. on March 7.
Photo credit: Patrick Tehan/San Jose Mercury News/MCT
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Although fallen Santa Cruz detectives Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker and Elizabeth Butler will long be praised for their compassionate, uncompromising police work, their children movingly reminded 8,500 people attending their memorial services Thursday that their most cherished and accomplished roles were as parents.
It was through the eyes of their survivors that throngs of uniformed law enforcement officers, dignitaries and everyday citizens gathered in grief at HP Pavilion came to understand the real essence of the pair killed by a gunman just nine days earlier.
Butler's partner, Peter Wu, slowly walked on stage carrying their 5-year-old son, Joaquin, who wore a police cap and clutched a small teddy bear close to his chest. As he held the boy, Wu shared a vow he had whispered to Butler as he viewed her body.
"I would take care of our boys and make sure they would always know what a great person their mom was," he said. "I promised her our sons would grow up to be gentle and to be loving."
Baker's daughter, Jillian, accompanied by brother Adam, a Santa Cruz community service officer, read from a 2005 Father's Day card she penned.
"You have fought for me, cared for me and put my safety and security first," she said. "You taught me when I fall, I must get up. You always led by example. You always fight for the good and morally right."
'HOLES IN OUR HEARTS'
Thursday's 2 1/2 -hour-long memorial services -- punctuated by humorous remembrances and the heart-wrenching formality of bagpipes, honor guards and a helicopter flyover -- began at noon after a 30-mile motorcade from Santa Cruz that featured more than 200 law enforcement vehicles and fire engines. Hundreds watched live video feeds of the service at Kaiser Permanente Arena and the Del Mar Theatre in Santa Cruz.
The Feb. 26 shootings of Baker, 51, and Butler, 38, marked the first deaths for Santa Cruz police officers in the line of duty since the department formed in 1866. The tragedy has left the small surfing mecca and university town numb with pain and shock as the community comes to grips with a rash of gun violence that included two other shootings in February.
As for the gunman, who fired on the two officers without warning and was later killed by responding authorities, 35-year-old cop killer Jeremy Goulet was cast Thursday as a "madman" whose dark history as a military service member and troubled civilian should have been blunted long ago.
Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel, who considered Baker a mentor, said, "We are left to ask, will the pain ever end? How do we fill the holes in our hearts? How do we take our next step?"
He said the two officers, following up on an assault complaint lodged by a neighbor against Goulet, were compassionate people whose warm personalities made them ideal for police work in Santa Cruz. He described them as "two heroes, two friends taken from us far too soon at the hands of a madman -- someone who would've gotten a fair shake from Elizabeth and Butch had he just given them a chance."
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, a Carmel Valley resident who once represented Santa Cruz in the U.S. House of Representatives, said, "There is no way we will ever really understand what made the killer do what he did that afternoon in what can only be described as an act of execution."
California Attorney General Kamala Harris said, "In the midst of this pain, we must remember that the idea for which they gave everything lives on. It takes a very special kind of person to get up every day, put on a badge and take on all the problems of a troubled world."
FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS
While the public service was a large tribute -- moved from Santa Cruz to the 18,000-seat San Jose sporting and concert arena -- it often carried an intimate tone befitting a service for family and friends. Beside twin flag-draped caskets stood portraits of the two in uniform and with family.
Before the service began, family photos streamed on a four-sided screen hanging above the pavilion floor. The Lionel Richie and Diana Ross duet "Endless
Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel puts a brave face on a tragic situation as he prepares to head into HP Pavilion for the memorial for his two fallen on Thursday. (Shmuel Thaler/Sentinel) ( @Shmuel Thaler )
Love" played as snapshots of Baker, a 28-year veteran of the force, and childhood sweetheart Kelly scrolled through decades of their loving marriage, which produced three children.
Video of Butler with her two children, 5 and 2, crawling around her at home showed a patient, contented mother. The bilingual investigator and avid reader loved the beach and mountains that define Santa Cruz, where colleagues say she practiced a philosophy that everyone was innately good.
Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant, also the mother of two young children, reminded the audience that the officers were, at heart, members of the community -- neighbors and friends. She promised the city would cherish their memories and "responsibly make positive change."
"We cannot bring them back; however, as a community, we will move forward knowing that is what they would have wanted," Bryant said. "Thank you for being a clear beacon for our future actions. Our work will demonstrate we will not forget you."
The city reported Thursday that Santa Cruz and its Police Officers Association have received to date $103,690 for scholarship funds on behalf of the two officers. Other community leaders have pledged an additional $125,000.
"They would want us to keep fighting for Santa Cruz and the values of all of us," Chief Vogel said. "I loved them both dearly, and I will miss them forever."
Twin Lakes Church Pastor Rene Schlaepfer, who led the service, said it is easy to feel fear after the killings but "we pray today for our community to be filled with faith and hope and love."
Butler's older sister, Alexis Butler, a teacher from Southern California, told of the Valentine's Day the two shared during a San Francisco Bay Area getaway less than two weeks before the shootings. She said it was the first time Butler had been away from her two sons overnight, and the first time she had kenneled her 11-year-old dog.
Alexis Butler painted a portrait of a vibrant woman who could let her hair down, literally. The image stood in contrast with Butler's police photo, her long brown hair tucked under a black cap.
As they entered a party together during their recent retreat, dressed in high heels, "She was the first woman to be noticed," Butler's sister said. "She was tall, she was soft, she was willowy. She always gave herself the permission to party."
Yet, Alexis Butler said she "didn't realize that simple weekend would be our last. She was my Valentine."
Elizabeth Butler, called "Beth" by friends and relatives, spoke often about wishing more women would go into the male-dominated profession of policing.
Fellow detective and mother Wendy Bynes, one of six female officers who served as pallbearers for Butler's casket, called her colleague "not just one of the best female officers in our state; she was one of the best officers period."
"She embodied what it meant to be a working mother, partner, daughter and sister, and gracefully showed us we don't have to sacrifice empathy, passion and motherhood to be a tenacious cop," Bynes said.
Detective Laurel Schonfield, also a pallbearer, told a funny story of Butler high-fiving a Santa Cruz judge who signed her first search warrant. Even though the gesture was unusual, Schonfield said it demonstrated Butler's dedication for her cases.
"We will forever have your back," she said to her fallen friend, a UC Santa Cruz graduate who joined the force a decade ago only to die three weeks before her 39th birthday.
Baker, a seasoned beat cop who the chief said was "immediately recognizable" in Santa Cruz, was similarly beloved by longtime colleagues who counted on his endless humor to put life in perspective.
"He taught me more things than I can count," Vogel said. "He taught me to be the leader that I am today and made me enjoy my work even more. He wanted to get to the truth and would stop at nothing to get it."
Santa Cruz County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Rosell said Baker was his "go-to" detective for prosecuting cases.
"In the 1980s, Butch was the first person you go to on your Rolodex," he said. "In 2013, he was the first person you would go to on your iPhone."
Rosell told of a walk on a Davenport beach that Baker once took with his wife, Kelly, spending quality time but also sniffing the air to see if he could smell the body of a homicide victim he suspected might have been dumped there.
"That was Butch, multitasking," Rosell said.
Baker was awarded a Medal of Valor and other honors for heroic actions during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, perhaps the last tragedy that brought Santa Cruz to its knees.
Santa Cruz Deputy Chief Steve Clark said Baker had a way of "taking a perfectly serious situation and somehow ruining it so we might laugh."
Speaking to Gov. Jerry Brown, who was in attendance at Thursday's service, the cropped-haired Clark said Baker was the first person to point out Clark's passing resemblance to the follicle-challenged governor.
"He never said that when Schwarzenegger was in office," Clark said.
The deputy chief said Baker could often be seen standing in hallways and office doorways, sometimes bouncing on one leg and rubbing his mustache as he evaluated the mood on any given day at the station. Baker deployed used-car salesman tactics to convince suspects to talk, organized practical jokes on co-workers and transferred his love of NASCAR into driving police cruisers, Clark said.
"There was a serious side to him, too," Clark said, choking back tears. "We had the opportunity to talk about who we wanted to be as men and leaders."
Capitola Police Chief Rudy Escalante, a longtime friend and former partner who also spoke about Baker at the service, said before the ceremony got under way that witnessing thousands of officers from around the state and country gather outside the arena made him feel "honor and pride -- and that is what Butch was all about, honor and pride."
Lt. Chris Lucia of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, an agency that played a large role in services four years ago for four fallen Oakland police officers, said memories of that event were still fresh Thursday.
"It's a somber day, and it's an eye-opening day for us," he said. "Any law enforcement service we go to we hope is our last. This is a reminder that the next memorial could be our own."
CHP dispatcher Rae Ramirez of Watsonville caught her breath after the ceremony as she remembered the dispatch call that went out over the pavilion's sound system at the end of the service, signing off the fallen officers by identifying their radio codes and noting their end-of-duty date.
"It was all very touching," she said, adding that she rode in the procession from Santa Cruz because "it's your family, it's your community."
Allison Aguilar, wife of Santa Cruz police officer Armando Aguilar, said she kept thinking of the victims' children and the danger police face on the street. While "heartbreaking," the services pointed out the "sacrifices they make every day," she said.
UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal, a Santa Cruz area resident for 40-plus years, attended the service along with his wife, Kelly Weisberg, students and UC police officers. The campus force has helped the California Highway Patrol, Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office and other agencies patrol the city while officers grieved.
"It's a sad day for the city and all in our community, but I am heartened by the turnout," Blumenthal said. "It shows we can really come together as a community in a time of crisis."
Santa Cruz native James Durbin, a finalist on "American Idol," performed "With Arms Wide Open," transforming the hit from rock band Creed into a stirring ballad as he sat simply playing the guitar.
Santa Cruz resident Diane Grace drove with two friends to attend the service in San Jose.
"We thought it was excellent and very supportive, "she said. "It's just nice to see everyone is coming together for this."
Thomas Miller, a retiree and former Merchant Marine member from San Bruno, took Caltrain to attend the memorial.
"It truly is tragic that this could all have been avoided," he said, wishing the shooter's problems were caught during his military service.
Sarah Weber of Santa Cruz, who watched the service at Kaiser Permanente Arena, said the part of the service during which Butler's sister and Baker's daughter spoke were "the most heart-wrenching," especially as Adam Baker stood beside his sister, Jillian, occasionally putting his hand on her back as she cried.
"You could see his grief, but it was just the way he held himself and supported his sister -- so proud and so full of grief," she said. "That said it all."
At the end of the day, the families of Butch Baker and Elizabeth Butler remained the focal point of Thursday's services. Before survivors filed out of the arena behind the caskets, officers handed folded American flags to Kelly Baker and Peter Wu, who told the audience that Butler's "memory will serve as my guiding light."
He seemed to speak for Baker's family too, when he said Butler's legacy will live on through her children and the people whose lives she touched.
"I miss you so much Beth; we will miss you so much," he said. "Goodbye, my love."
Staff writers Stephen Baxter and Cathy Kelly contributed to this report. Follow Sentinel reporter J.M. Brown on Twitter at Twitter.com/jmbrownreports
Loran Lee 'Butch' Baker Jr.
BORN: Sept. 16, 1961, in San Francisco, grew up in Saratoga
DIED: Feb. 26, 2013, in Santa Cruz
SURVIVORS: Wife and childhood sweetheart, Kelly; son Adam; daughters Jillian and Ashley; parents Loran and Virginia; sister Sandy.
MARRIAGE: Butch and Kelly met when they were children, ages 10 and 11, and their life together gave Butch the support his vocation and commitment to police work.
EDUCATION: Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose
CAREER: Santa Cruz Police Department detective sergeant; member of the force for 28 years. Friends say he talked of retiring soon.
INTERESTS: Family, friends, the Santa Cruz Police Department, Giants baseball and his iPad.
HIS WORK: Worked with UCSC Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway, a noted forensic anthropologist, on several notable cases including the still-unsolved case of Pogonip Jane, a woman whose remains were found in Santa Cruz's largest greenbelt in 1994.
HONORS: Medal of Valor for his heroic action in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, as well as numerous awards from state and federal law enforcement agencies.
BORN: March 16, 1974
DIED: Feb. 26, 2013
SURVIVORS: Partner Peter Wu; sons Joaquin and Stellan; mother Louise Butler; sister Alexis Butler; grandmother Nelda Osborne
EDUCATION: St. Margaret Mary Grade School in Lomita, Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance and UC Santa Cruz
CAREER: Santa Cruz police detective in charge of sex crimes investigations
OTHER Work: After college, she worked at Lenders For Community Development in San Jose, where she was trained to help minority small business owners obtain start-up loans. She also worked for Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco. Elizabeth and Peter started Clay Digs ceramics studio on Swift Street in 2001. She was accepted to the Santa Cruz Police Department in 2003.
INTERESTS: Elizabeth enjoyed taking her sons to Musical Me classes and the WPENS preschool classes. She liked to cook, hike and spend time at the beach.
CONTRIBUTIONS: Any Bay Federal Credit Union branch or mail to 3333 Clares St., Capitola, CA 95010. Checks should be made payable to the Santa Cruz Police Officers Association.
Copyright 2013 - Santa Cruz Sentinel, Calif.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service