SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Two Santa Cruz police officers were killed in a shootout and a suspect was fatally wounded Tuesday afternoon in a burst of violence that rocked the eclectic seaside community.
The shootings began about 3:30 p.m., when a man opened fire on two Santa Cruz Police Department officers conducting a follow-up criminal investigation at a home, law enforcement authorities said.
Both officers were fatally wounded and the gunman fled.
Late Tuesday, the slain officers were identified as 10-year veteran Elizabeth Butler, originally from Torrance, and Loren “Butch” Baker, a 28-year veteran.
After the shootings, officers from multiple jurisdictions swooped down on the city and launched a search for the killer.
A suspect later identified as Jeremy Peter Goulet, 35, was killed about 30 minutes later in a second shootout with authorities.
The loss of the two officers followed a recent series of violent incidents in the city and was especially devastating for the small Police Department, which has about 90 sworn officers.
Butler and Baker were the first officers slain in the line of duty in the department’s history.
“This is a horrific day. We lost two exceptionally fine officers,” a visibly shaken Chief Kevin Vogel told reporters. “We need to figure out a way to bring our department together and get through this.”
Analicia Cube, who founded the community group Take Back Santa Cruz in late 2009, called the deaths “just devastating for our community.”
The city, about 60 miles south of San Francisco, is best known for its famed surf spots, seaside amusement park and diverse community that includes a University of California campus.
But in recent weeks, a UC Santa Cruz student was shot in the head, another student was reportedly raped and a home-invasion robbery left residents on edge.
“Santa Cruz has always been a different, eclectic kind of town,” Cube told The Times, breaking down in tears as she talked about the killings. “Now it’s just gotten ugly.”
Cube, a 39-year-old business owner and mother of two, had just walked into a City Council meeting Tuesday afternoon when the police chief ran past her and sped off in his cruiser.
Then her phone rang. A group member had heard the call on the scanner: two officers down.
An hour later, as rumors circulated through the City Council chambers, Mayor Hilary Bryant declared a five-minute recess. When council members emerged from a closed session, some were crying.
As the incident unfolded, police issued a “be on the lookout” alert for Goulet.
Goulet was arrested Friday on suspicion of disorderly conduct at the same location where the two officers were killed, according to the sheriff’s online records.
News accounts from the Oregonian newspaper in Portland state that in 2008, a Jeremy Peter Goulet was sentenced to three years probation and sex-offender treatment after a conviction for peeping at a 22-year-old woman as she showered in her northwest Portland condo.
The Oregonian also reported that jurors convicted Goulet of carrying a gun without a concealed weapons permit.
The deadly shootings Tuesday followed a commitment by the Santa Cruz City Council to increase funding for the Police Department.
On Tuesday night, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office had taken over patrol duties in the city and was leading the investigation into the shootings.
“My primary concern at this point,” Vogel said at a news conference, “is for the safety and well-being of my officers as well as the families of the deceased officers.”
The Facebook page for Take Back Santa Cruz, which is closed to outsiders, was filled with posts Tuesday night expressing anguish and anger, Cube said.
“You’re seeing people grieving and in shock,” she said. “There’s people crying, there’s people mad. People are starting to talk about carrying guns around.”
-Los Angeles Times