A Tacoma police officer was fatally shot Wednesday while responding to a domestic violence call on the city’s East Side, sparking an hourslong standoff with a volley of gunfire.
Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell said Thursday the officer was 45 years old and joined the department in 1999. The department said it will not identify the officer until all of his family members had been notified.
A standoff with the suspected shooter lasted nearly 12 hours before he was fatally shot by police.
The chief, who spent the evening with the officer’s family, read a statement about 1:30 a.m. “They’re doing as well as can be expected,” he said.
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Assistant chiefs Pete Cribbin and Kathy McAlpine stood behind him outside police headquarters, where several citizens had already placed flowers and lit candles.
Ramsdell expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support from the community, fellow officers and other first responders.
“We’ve suffered a great loss and I think the community has suffered a great loss,” Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said Wednesday, while fighting back tears.
“And I don’t know how to put that into words, other than to say that everyone here appreciates the kind thoughts and the prayers that are going out to us.”
People stopped by the police station and the perimeter of the standoff to hug officers and shake their hands, thanking them for their service.
The officer died late Wednesday at Tacoma General Hospital, where he underwent surgery after the shooting.
Before his body was moved, more than 80 uniformed law enforcement officers waited at attention for more than an hour in the cold outside the hospital.
Many saluted their fallen comrade as his body was placed into an ambulance at the front of a procession of dozens of vehicles that escorted the officer’s body roughly three miles to the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The officer’s body was draped in a flag and loaded into the ambulance at 10:40 p.m. A column of 10 Tacoma police motorcycles and 50 cars from an array of area police departments followed it away.
A crowd of 20 civilians also formed on the sidewalk.
Lareina Sauls, 28, and her son Emanual, 9, hugged and shivered as they waited. Each clutched a construction-paper image of a crying heart they made while they listening to news reports from their Wilson neighborhood home in the North End.
“It affected my son a lot,” Lareina Sauls said.
She said the two had wept and prayed after hearing the officer had been shot.
“All he was doing was doing his job and checking a call,” she said. “I wanted to be a police officer, so it hit me really hard too.”
This was the 11th Tacoma police officer to be killed in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
The last line-of-duty death was a motorcycle accident with James Gordon “Jim” Lewis in April 2004. The last officer killed by gunfire was William Francis Lowry in August 1997.
The fatal shooting of the Tacoma officer came a day after the seventh anniversary of when four Lakewood officers were shot to death in a Parkland coffee shop.
Kristi Croskey was in the home in 400 block of East 52nd Street and able to escape after the shooting happened. She expressed gratitude for the police officers who responded to the house.
“I do not want to hear anything about the police officers being inhumane and shooting people unnecessary or any of those things,” she told reporters.
“I want to say the Tacoma Police Department handled this matter with such professionalism despite their own being shot. And I want to say this situation did not have to occur.”
As the community grieved, law enforcement officers from Tacoma, Lakewood, Puyallup, Fife, Ruston, University Place, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, Washington State Patrol and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives responded to the scene of the shooting.
“When you hear an officer calling for help and you hear them say ‘shots fired,’ you don’t have to ask for help,” Cool said. “Everybody responds.”
Police closed off several blocks from East 50th to East 54th streets, and from Pacific Avenue to E Street, and asked people to stay out of the area.
Residents already in the area were asked to stay inside.
“Remember that we still have a job to do, we are still on the scene and we are doing our best to not have anyone else injured or harmed tonight in any way,” Cool said.
The shooting happened after two officers were called just before 4 p.m. to respond to a verbal argument. They knocked on the front door.
“A very short time later,” the uninjured officer called for priority backup, Cool said. Almost immediately, a “shots fired” call went out over the radio.
Details on what led up to the shooting were not immediately available. Police did not know if officers returned fire, where the officer was when he was shot or how he was removed from the scene while the gunman continued to fire.
Croskey said after she moved out of the home seven months ago, she let the suspect live there with his wife and two children. She said he was a barber who worked at the barbershop her family has patronized for more than 50 years. She was not aware of any problems the family was having.
Croskey said she went into the home Wednesday afternoon to retrieve some items she had left in the basement and while there, shots rang out. She said she heard the officers identify themselves and say they wanted to talk to the suspect.
The suspected shooter, a 38-year-old man, was killed by police gunfire early Thursday after an 11-hour standoff at an East Side home.
The suspect has not been identified.
A SWAT team rescued a boy and girl about 3:20 a.m. from the three-story house in the 400 block of East 52nd Street.
“The kids are safe and out of the house,” police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said.
After news of the officer’s passing was made public, union president Jim Barrett said the department is grieving.
“We’re just asking the community to pray for the officer and the officer’s family and for the men and women of the department,” he said.
Mayor Marilyn Strickland expressed condolences.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our officer and we offer our most sincere condolences to his family, his loved ones and his Tacoma police department colleagues,” she said.
At the police headquarters on South Pine Street, Donovan Waterman and his mother, Just, brought by red and white roses from Safeway and placed them at the door of the building. The 12-year-old said he chose the colors because they represent unity when together.
City Councilman Ryan Mello called Wednesday a difficult day for Tacoma. Mello said he’d reached out to the police officers’ union to offer support.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with them and if they need anything at all we stand ready to support them,” he said.
That sentiment seemed to be widespread.
Dozens of agencies tweeted support and condolences to the Tacoma Police Department.
“We all will take our time when it’s appropriate to grieve and to share our thoughts and feelings on our friend,” Cool said. “Everyone in our police department knows everyone and yes, everybody will feel it.”
Staff writers Derrick Nunnally, Kenny Ocker and Candice Ruud contributed to this report.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653