4 slain Wash. officers honored at memorial

AP News
Posted: Dec 09, 2009 3:22 AM

Thousands of officers from across North America came to Washington state to honor four Lakewood Police officers who were gunned down in a coffee shop.

A procession of 2,000 cars followed the flag-draped caskets of Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold, and Greg Richards to the Tacoma Dome, where the three-hour service was held before 20,000 mourners.

Cpl. Jack Hundial, of Surrey, British Columbia, was one of 1,000 Royal Canadian Mounted Police in attendance Tuesday.

"I think about their families," he said. "I don't think you ever find true closure for something this tragic."

Tuesday's memorial service and procession is believed to be the largest in state history.

The officers' family, friends and colleagues served as pallbearers. A ceremonial honor guard opened the ceremony, and every officer in the arena stood at attention, saluting as the four officers' families and members of the Lakeland Police Department were led to their seats.

"They were good people, and they were great cops," Lakewood Police Chief Brett Farrar said at the service. "And they will be truly missed."

Each of Richards' young children _ Austin, Jami-Mae and Gavin _ spoke in honor of their father, and received a standing ovation when they finished.

"Our dad was a hero to many even long before he became a policeman," Austin said. "The way he lived his life spoke volumes."

A 25-minute video showed numerous pictures of each of the officers, ranging from when they were babies to recent ones with families and friends, as well as on the job. The ceremony ended with a bell being rung 21 times, then the flags from the officers' caskets folded and presented to the families.

The Lakewood officers were killed by a lone gunman Nov. 29 before the start of their shift. Authorities say Maurice Clemmons singled them out and spared employees and other customers at the coffee shop in Parkland, a Tacoma suburb about 35 miles south of Seattle.

Clemmons was shot to death last week by a Seattle police officer after a two-day manhunt. Prosecutors said Clemmons received help from family and friends, and seven people have been arrested.

Floral arrangements lined the stage, as well as two motorcycles, a drum set and a NASCAR race car. Griswold and Owens both loved motorcycles, Owens played the drums, and Renninger was a big NASCAR fan, according to Lakewood Mayor Dennis Fountain.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said the sacrifice made by law enforcement will not be forgotten.

"We will remember them today. We will remember them always," she said. "We owe the children of these officers, all nine of them, a present and a future that is safe and secure."