Greg Richards asked to speak first when kin gathered around the holiday feast Thursday to talk about their blessings.
He couldn’t wait to say how thankful he was for his family, sister-in-law Melanie Burwell said Monday.
Tina Griswold wasn’t scheduled to work Sunday, but took an overtime shift. Police work was what she loved, said her sister, Tiffiny Ryan, whose “worst nightmare” came true with Griswold’s death.
More than 5,000 people joined the Support Officer Mark Renninger Facebook page in just over 24 hours. Many spoke of the slain sergeant’s leadership. Of strength and honor. Of family. Even of his Philly-style accent.
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Ronnie Owens “was most definitely a good troop,” Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste said of the man who spent seven years of his police career as a state trooper.
Each of the four Lakewood police officers shot to death in a Parkland coffee shop Sunday was deeply devoted to several families. Immediate: Husband, wives, children, parents, siblings. Professional: Brothers and sisters in the law enforcement community. Civic: The members of their communities, those they swore to protect.
Their families, friends and co-workers want you to celebrate their lives, even through the sting of their loss.
OFFICER GREG RICHARDS, 42
Married to Kelly; father of three: Austin, 16, Jami-Mae, 15, Gavin, 10.
Richards had two true loves – his family and music, sister-in-law Melanie Burwell said.
Husband, proud father of three, drummer in a band called Locked Down.
“He kind of epitomizes the word family man,” Burwell said.
“There was a house for sale in my neighborhood, and he bought it just so Kelly could be near her family,” said Burwell, who is Kelly Richards’ sister.
“My parents live less than three miles away,” she added.
Photos shared by Burwell on Monday bear testament to Richards’ love of family: He’s at the center of a pile of kids in the back of a van at the drive-in; out to the ballgame at Safeco Field with son Gavin and other family; buckling into a scary ride at the Puyallup Fair with brother-in-law Chris Burwell; coloring Easter eggs with Chris and Mitchell Burwell; picking pumpkins with family at Spooner Farms in Puyallup; hoeing and raking his patch of yard with the help of neighborhood kids over the summer; in a tender-moment snapshot with Kelly.
Richards grew up and went to school in California, where he played in the band at Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights. They once performed for President Ronald Reagan.
In a message posted on the Lakewood Police Independent Guild Web site, union president Brian D. Wurts remembered Richards for both his humanity and his musical acumen.
“Greg was a great cop who cared about one thing above all else, his family,” Wurts wrote.
Over the summer, Richards and his band “rocked the house” with the proceeds going to help a friend in the hospital, the union president continued.
Richards was a police officer for eight years, beginning work on patrol in Kent.
His siblings, Gabrielle Bolle of the Tacoma area, and Gayle Goellner and Gary Richards of California, gathered in Graham on Monday with dozens of family members as police officers from many agencies came to console and pay respects, Burwell said.
Just outside is the yard Richards landscaped over the summer and the gazebo he just built.
Greg Richards told his wife often that he had everything in life he wanted and needed, Burwell said.
“That was his family.”
OFFICER RONALD OWENS, 37
‘Loving and devoted father’
To his brother and sister officers, Ronnie Owens “was the laid-back, dirt-bike-riding, surfer-hair-having cop, you would always want at a party or with you on any call,” Wurts wrote.
Property manager Toni Strehlow called Owens an ideal tenant who spruced up his place and didn’t ask for a rent reduction.
“He just wanted to do for people,” she told The Seattle Times.
Batiste, the Washington State Patrol Chief, said in a statement that there are many ranks and honors to denote exemplary service but the most coveted is “to simply be respected by your colleagues as ‘a good troop.’
Owens, son of a retired Tacoma police sergeant, proud father of a daughter, was exactly that, Batiste said. He worked for the Washington State Patrol from 1997-2004, when he joined the Lakewood police.
“Ron Owens was most definitely a good troop,” Batiste said.
His family issued a simple statement:
“Ronnie Owens was first and foremost a loving and devoted father,” it said. “He lived his entire life in Parkland and was honored to serve this community. Our family would like to thank everyone for their support and prayers. He will be greatly missed by all.”
SGT. MARK RENNINGER, 39
Husband, father of three
Mark Renninger “wasn’t always easy, but we always knew he had our back,” said Douglas Hanks, who served with Renninger in a Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis several years ago.
Renninger, a staff sergeant, was tough because he had to be, and he was a great teacher because he wanted his troops to survive combat, Hanks said.
Hanks was among hundreds of people who left comments Monday on a Facebook Web page in honor of Renninger.
“Mark is that guy who is the go-to guy for everything,” the Lakewood police union’s Wurts wrote on the union Web site. “He was the most competent and tactically proficient man I ever knew in police work.”
In a telephone interview, Hanks credited Renninger with teaching him many of the critical thinking and leadership skills he now uses daily in his job as vice president of development for an Austin, Texas, recruiting firm.
Renninger knew “how to think under pressure and remain calm in a crisis situation,” Hanks said.
Renninger joined the Tukwila Police Department shortly after leaving the Army in 1996 and worked as a patrol officer, tactical team member and president of the police guild.
Friends, co-workers, even strangers, called him law enforcement mentor, kids’ sports coach, hero in hundreds of Facebook posts on Monday.
Renninger grew up in Lehigh Valley, Pa., and graduated from Liberty High School in 1989.
“Mark was a professional, dedicated police officer who made the ultimate sacrifice,” his brother Matthew Renninger told WFMZ-TV in Lehigh Valley. “More importantly, he was a loving and devoted father, husband and family member who will be missed by many.”
Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659
News Tribune staff writer Brent Champaco, Olympian staff writer Jeremy Pawloski, The Seattle Times and The Associated Press contributed to this report.