Crime

Trail honors slain deputy who loved outdoors

Patricia Stafford, right, mother of slain Pierce County sheriff's deputy Kent Mundell Jr., holds Mundell's son Austin on Tuesday as they look at a plaque dedicated to Mundell at Ashford County Park. Mundell’s widow, Lisa (plaid collar), stands with other family members behind Austin.
Patricia Stafford, right, mother of slain Pierce County sheriff's deputy Kent Mundell Jr., holds Mundell's son Austin on Tuesday as they look at a plaque dedicated to Mundell at Ashford County Park. Mundell’s widow, Lisa (plaid collar), stands with other family members behind Austin. The Olympian

Kent Mundell loved the outdoors.

Before the Pierce County sheriff’s deputy was killed in a shootout last year, he sometimes told friends he considered his work with the sheriff’s Mountain Detachment “a dream job.”

It was fitting, then, that on Tuesday morning, the county named an East Pierce trail after him.

From now on, if you hike at the county’s new Ashford County Park, just outside Ashford near the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, you’ll be walking on the Kent Mundell Memorial Trail.

“Parks are forever,” parks director Kathy Kravit-Smith told a crowd of about 200 people at Tuesday’s dedication ceremony. “He will outlast us all.”

Mundell and his partner responded to a domestic violence call in Eatonville on Dec. 21, 2009, where a drunken man was fighting with his daughter and brother.

The deputies were escorting the man from the house when he opened fire with a concealed gun. Mundell was badly wounded but managed to shoot and kill the man. The 44-year-old father of two died a week later.

Hours after the trail dedication, Mundell was honored on the anniversary of his death with a candlelight vigil at the South Hill precinct.

Hundreds of people gathered for the 25-minute ceremony, huddling beneath umbrellas and using their hands to shield the flames from rain and wind.

Sheriff Paul Pastor spoke of Mundell’s remarkable courage and encouraged those in attendance to recommit themselves to fighting the same “darkness” that the deputy gave his life for.

A wreath of flowers with “Gone but not forgotten” written inside was carefully placed in front of the flags, and bagpipers played “Amazing Grace.”

Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Blair said that each of Mundell’s family members carries a piece of the fallen deputy with them. His son bears a striking physical resemblance. His daughter also acts like the world is her playground. His wife is poised, and his mother is “a rock.”

But nobody was exactly like Mundell.

“He was easy to like, easy to love and hard to lose,” Blair said.

At the trail dedication earlier Tuesday, high clouds covered Ashford and wispy trails of mist hung at treetop level, partially obscuring surrounding hills.

Those in attendance – mostly fellow law enforcement officers and Mundell’s friends and family members – hunched into their jackets and rubbed their hands together to stay warm.

County Executive Pat McCarthy made the trip from Tacoma and was among the featured speakers. She noted that, for 26 years, she and her husband have owned a cabin near Ashford.

“I’ve always thought of this as a little piece of heaven,” McCarthy said.

“Dedicating this trail in his (Mundell’s) memory is an appropriate way to honor him,” she said, “and to remind the people who visit this wonderful place that our safety and security sometimes come with the highest of prices.”

Mundell’s mother, Patricia Stafford, spoke for the family.

“He told me once that there might come a day when he would be killed in the line of duty,” Stafford said of her son.

“Some people will call me a hero,” Stafford remembered Mundell saying, “but I’m really not. I’m just doing my job.”

Stafford took the opportunity to praise and encourage Mundell’s fellow officers for similarly risking their lives every day for the greater good of the community.

“Our faith was shaken. Our sense of security was shaken,” she said. “But we have to look forward. It shows us our mettle. It shows us what we’re made of.”

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