The sudden death of Steve Brooks, an officer with more than 26 years of experience with the Lacey Police Department, has left a huge void, his friends and colleagues said this week.
Brooks will be missed not only because he was a tenacious police officer with brains and street smarts, but also because he came to work every day with a smile on his face, according to his fellow officers.
“He was a great officer,” Lacey Police Chief Dusty Pierpoint said. “He was a great friend and a role model. He served the community with honor, and we’re going to miss him.”
Brooks, 56, died Aug. 15 at Providence St. Peter Hospital, where he was treated for injuries suffered Aug. 4 in an all-terrain vehicle accident on his property near Black Lake.
During an interview at the Lacey Police headquarters, Lacey Police Lt. Phil Comstock recalled Brooks’ career in Lacey, which included work in the patrol division, as a detective, with the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force and as a school resource officer for North Thurston Public Schools. He also trained countless younger Lacey officers, both formally and informally, Comstock said.
Comstock recalled one case that illustrates what made Brooks special. In 2008, Brooks identified a suspect in a unsolved rape of a St. Martin’s University student by noticing that a sketch artist’s drawing of the suspect was similar to the mugshot of a man he saw on the website of a Seattle news TV station. DNA evidence collected after the rape of the St. Martin’s student matched that of the suspect Brooks identified. Richard Duane Bunch was later convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for the crime.
Brooks identified the rapist while he was off-duty, simply perusing the news, Comstock said.
“That’s Steve,” Comstock said. “The guy had a nose for law enforcement. If there was something to be found out there, Steve would find it. He was one of the most self-initiated, hard-working police officers I have ever met.”
After working as a school resource officer at both Chinook Middle School and at North Thurston High School, Brooks will be remembered for his great sense of humor and his great rapport with students, North Thurston High School Principal Steve Rood said.
“He was a natural teacher, and kids really responded well to him,” Rood said. “The news of this has just been heartbreaking. He was really one of the good guys.”
Pierpoint, the police chief, said that Brooks also knew how to balance police work and his personal life. He loved playing golf, working on cars, coaching his son’s baseball team and spending time with his family. He is survived by his partner, Staci; sons Justin and Trevor; daughter Tiffani; and three grandchildren, Shane, Peyten and Wyatt.
Tiffani said she will always remember the thrill of going on ride-alongs with her dad while she was growing up. She said that on one occasion, Brooks arrested a teenager on suspicion of driving while intoxicated while she was on a ride-along, and the young man and his father wound up thanking Brooks later at the police station “for being so kind and understanding” about the incident. She said her dad was always calm, “even during intense situations.”
Tiffani added that she once asked her dad how he could stay so calm on the job, and he responded, “If I get careless, people get hurt, and I don’t want anyone to get hurt, including myself. I want everyone to go home to their loved ones.”
Son Trevor said what he’ll remember the most about his father is that “he believed in me and never gave up on me.” His other son, Justin, said that he’ll always be thankful that his dad inspired him to choose a career that he loved. “He loved his job and the fact that he got to help people,” Justin said.
Lacey officers all say the same thing when asked what they will remember about their fallen colleague — he always came to work with a smile on his face, and he said he wouldn’t consider retirement because work was still fun.
“You couldn’t tell if he was having a bad day,” officer Don Arnold said. “It was always with a smile.”
detective Bev Reinhold said that Brooks brought an uncanny knack for knowing how to catch suspects in his detective work. She said his instincts and ability to understand what made others tick made it seem easy for him to solve cases.
“He had an incredible amount of common sense,” she said. “It was like he was a magnet, and all of the bad guys would just sort of find their way to him.”
He got along with everybody, Reinhold added. “He is one of those people who never met a stranger,” Reinhold said.
Brooks led by example, Pierpoint said. He also consistently ranked among the officers with the most annual arrests and handling the most calls for service, Pierpoint added. In 1991, Brooks was named the Lacey Police Officer of the Year.
“He had a knack for finding criminal activity,” Pierpoint said.
Many officers are hurting over Brooks’ loss, but the entire department and the police guild are coming together to help Brooks’ family as they deal with their loss.
“It’s a struggle, because it’s one of our own, and it’s family,” Comstock said.
The Brooks family said they are thankful in a statement emailed to The Olympian. “The Brooks family would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation for all the love, support, prayers, stories, thoughts and donations that have been sent to Steve (husband, father, grandfather, friend and colleague) and our family during these last few days of his very short life,” the email said.
A donation fund, the Lacey Police Guild Steve Brooks Memorial Fund, has been set up through Twin Star Credit Union to benefit Brooks’ grandchildren: Shane and Peyten Reddoch, and Wyatt Boyer.
Brooks’ memorial service will be Friday at 11 a.m. at Capital Christian Center, 4431 Martin Way E. in Olympia. The public is welcome. A reception will follow.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445