Greg Richards’ youngest son, 11-year-old Gavin, shed tears and was embraced by one of his dad’s colleagues with the Lakewood Police Department.
Mark Renninger’s 4-year-old son, Nicholas, looked at flowers, candles and other mementos left at the base of a granite wall dedicated to the sacrifice of his father and three fellow officers.
They were among the family members of Owens, Richards, Renninger and Tina Griswold who filed past the new memorial outside the Lakewood Police Department headquarters Monday morning to mark the first anniversary of the officers’ deaths in a Parkland coffee shop.
“This monument of granite provides a fitting memorial for our officers,” Lakewood Mayor Douglas Richardson told the crowd of about 500 gathered in the chilly air during Monday’s dedication ceremony. “The monument to them which will endure is the example of the lives they lived, the lives they shaped and their character.”
Renninger, Griswold, Owens and Richards were getting drinks and something to eat at the start of their shift on Nov. 29, 2009, when they were shot to death inside a Forza Coffee Co. shop in Parkland. They were the first Lakewood police officers to be killed in the line of duty in the department’s history. They left behind spouses, nine children, siblings and parents.
The violent confrontation – the deadliest single attack on law enforcement in the state’s history – shocked the community they served and prompted thousands to show their support for Lakewood police and law enforcement by lining the streets for a memorial procession, giving donations to the slain officers’ families, using blue light bulbs on their front porches and sending homemade gifts to the department.
The donations extended to the building of the Lakewood Police Department’s fallen officer memorial that was dedicated Monday.
Shortly after the slayings, the department started planning for a permanent memorial to Renninger, Griswold, Owens and Richards and any other officers who might lose their lives while patrolling the city’s streets in the future.
A committee of officers, civilian staff members and city representatives worked with the architect who designed the department’s $12.6 million headquarters.
The committee and department settled on a three-paneled black granite wall built into the hillside outside the headquarters building on Lakewood Drive Southwest.
The memorial features a bench on which people can sit and reflect, landscaping and running water to drown out traffic noise from the busy street. The names of Renninger, Griswold, Owens and Richards and the date of their deaths are inscribed on the wall’s center panel.
“It’s a date that will always be remembered, a defining moment,” Lakewood City Manager Andrew Neiditz said during the dedication.
Family members of the four officers started their day Monday at the Parkland Forza. The coffee shop closed its doors to the public so the relatives could gather in private during the exact time a year ago when the officers were killed.
Afterward, they went to the Lakewood Police Department headquarters and were joined for the memorial wall dedication by hundreds of law enforcement officers in dress uniforms, firefighters, soldiers, local dignitaries and community members. The family members declined to speak with the media.
A large U.S. flag hung from two ladder trucks. Community members dressed in commemorative T-shirts and wrist bands. Many snapped pictures, dabbed at tears and stood in silence.
“I think it affected all of us very deeply,” said Carol Hudgins, who lived in Lakewood for 30 years before moving last year. She described the wall simply as “beautiful.”
During the ceremony, Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar acknowledged the support of the community during the department’s darkest hours. He encouraged everyone to participate in an annual food drive dedicated in the officers’ honor.
The drive raised more than $30,000 in cash and 20,000 pounds in food Monday. It will be held every year on Nov. 29 from now on.
“What they meant to the Lakewood Police Department will be felt for the rest of our lives,” Farrar said. “I miss them every day. I think about them every day.”
Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/crime