Steel, stone, thin blue lines will honor fallen heroes

Tribute: 2 memorials rise to honor 4 slain Lakewood officers

October 25, 2010 

  • How to help

    A dine-out event Nov. 4 at a number of King and Pierce County restaurants and Forza coffee shops will raise money for the Lakewood police and Forza coffee shop memorials. Donations also will go to the Behind the Badge Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping law enforcement officers and their families.

    A Facebook page created for the event – www.facebook.com/RememberOurFallen – contains details on participating restaurants.

    About the memorials

    The Forza Coffee Shop Memorial, depicted in a drawing top left, will feature a concrete retaining wall topped with blue tiles to represent the thin blue line. The wall is broken in four places to signify the officers’ lives that were lost. Four flagpoles will be placed behind the wall. A sculpture of four large steel chain links will sit on a grassy, landscaped mound in front. The sculpture “represents the links of the community,” Forza CEO Brad Carpenter, says.

    At the Lakewood Police Department, top left, from Lakewood Drive Southwest, passersby will see a panel that reads “Fallen Officer Memorial” and a walkway leading to the wall and bench in a plaza area. Designers hope the hillside and a water feature will help mask the traffic noise.

    A blue line separating the center wall from an above-ground panel represents the thin blue line.

    The names of the four fallen officers will be in a row near the top of the wall’s center panel. A single star separates their names and the date of their deaths. Within the department, the star has come to symbolize the fallen officers.

When the Lakewood Police Department opened its new headquarters last year, there was no need for a memorial paying tribute to officers killed while patrolling the city's streets.

Then, Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards were gunned down Nov. 29 at a Parkland coffee shop while preparing for their Sunday shifts.

Now, the Lakewood community will have two memorials honoring the officers.

Crews started working earlier this month on a black granite wall and plaza outside the Police Department’s headquarters at 9401 Lakewood Drive S.W. It will honor the four fallen officers and those who might die in the future while on duty in Lakewood.

Less than three miles away, another monument – featuring a retaining wall, sculpture and four flag poles – is being erected at 116th Street South and Steele Street South, just steps from the Forza coffee shop where the four officers were killed last year.

Several businesses have volunteered design time and labor for both tributes and some contributions have been collected.

Organizers hope the memorials will be completed before next month’s anniversary of the deadliest attack on police officers in Washington state history.

LAKEWOOD POLICE MEMORIAL

Shortly after the deaths of Renninger, Griswold, Owens and Richards, police officials realized the department needed to build a permanent memorial for the fallen officers, the first to die in the line of duty since the department was formed nearly six years ago.

However, officials decided the memorial shouldn’t be just for the four.

“This memorial was designed for the horrible possibility that we could lose more officers,” police Lt. Heidi Hoffman said recently.

A committee of officers, civilian staff members and city representatives weighed what to do and where. Committee members worked with the architect who designed the department’s $12.6 million headquarters.

The committee talked about a plaque and an outside tribute before deciding on a three-paneled granite wall outside the west side of the police headquarters. The memorial wall is sunken into the hillside similar to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Members of the Police Department voted on ideas and the design was finalized earlier this month. The city’s Arts Commission and City Council also approved the idea.

“At every turn, we deferred to the wishes of the patrol officers,” Hoffman said. “This had to reflect what patrol wanted.”

Architect Peter T.S. Rasmussen said he was aiming for a “quiet elegance” with the memorial.

“We’re trying to make sure we don’t create something that is overwhelming and takes away from the general ambience,” said Rasmussen of Architects Rasmussen Triebelhorn in Tacoma. “It will give you some solitude.”

Planners estimate the memorial will cost $65,000 to $80,000. The department wanted to build the memorial with minimal cost to the public, Assistant Chief Mike Zaro said, so most of the expenses were covered by donated time and resources.

The Lakewood Police Independent Guild is raising money to cover any other costs, Hoffman said.

Last month, the Tacoma Korean Christian Church Association donated $2,200 that will go toward the cost of some materials.

“They wanted it to go toward something for the department,” Zaro said. “It was just good timing.”

FORZA MEMORIAL

The idea for a permanent memorial at the Parkland Forza coffee shop started in January when a man who wanted to donate four flag polls contacted Brad Carpenter, chief executive officer of the Forza Coffee Co. Carpenter went on Facebook and asked for suggestions on what to do with them.

“This morphed from a ‘Let’s dig four holes’ into a $275,000 project,” he said recently.

Carpenter met with contractors who offered their time and expertise. They sat around a square table inside the Parkland Forza and sketched out ideas. Work on the memorial began a couple of months ago.

“We’ve got every apprentice union to donate time,” Carpenter said. “This has been an entire community project.”

However, planners are falling about $25,000 short of the money needed to complete the project. To raise the money needed, an event is planned for next month at Pierce and King county restaurants as well as Forza coffee shops.

Even without the new memorial the coffee shop has other tributes to Renninger, Griswold, Owens and Richards.

A framed photo on the wall near the front of the store features the officers’ faces. A nearby niche holds blue rose buds, four teddy bears and a framed picture of the officers’ memorial service at the Tacoma Dome.

A glass-topped case on the front counter features law enforcement patches and pins.

“It’s necessary to do something here,” Carpenter said. “We would not have the ability to conduct small business commerce without the thin blue line to protect us. That was certainly brought home to us here.”

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268 stacey.mulick@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/crime

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