Slain Lakewood officers leave holes in community fabric
More details on the lives of the four Lakewood police officers slain by a gunman Sunday.
Coverage from the days following the Lakewood shootings
The four Lakewood police officers gunned down in a coffee shop Sunday morning had a lot in common: They joined the fledgling Lakewood Police Department in 2004, had years of experience, and all were parents.
The slain officers "all have been outstanding professionals," said Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar.
Sgt. Mark Renninger
A decorated veteran officer and popular law-enforcement instructor, Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, is survived by his wife and three children.
"He was the most competent and tactically proficient man I ever knew in police work," Brian Wurts, a Lakewood police officer and president of its police union, said in an e-mail. "Mark had that spark that made you like him and respect him. He was truly a rock in our department."
Renninger grew up in the Lehigh Valley area of central Pennsylvania.
He joined the Tukwila Police Department shortly after leaving military service in 1996. He was a patrol officer, a SWAT team member and was, for a time, president of the Tukwila police officers' guild.
"Mark was a professional, dedicated police officer who made the ultimate sacrifice. More importantly, he was a loving and devoted father, husband and family member who will be missed by many," said Renninger's brother, Matt, in a statement released by the family. Renninger moved to the Lakewood department in 2004 and became known as a savvy negotiator and instructor. Renninger trained officers in and outside the department in SWAT tactics, firearms, chemical munitions and patrol responsibilities.
"He simply could take any training situation and make it work no matter what group he was teaching," Wurts said.
On a Facebook tribute page set up by his relatives Sunday, more than 1,000 messages of tribute were posted by that evening.
Among the postings was one from Rick Fisher, who said he coached Renninger's daughter in fast-pitch softball two seasons ago. "Mark was a fun and compassionate man," Fisher wrote. "He was always willing to help me and the girls out when he could. He was a tremendous help."
Officer Ronald Owens
Friends describe Ronald Owens, 37, as a dedicated officer, devoted father and fun-loving guy.
"Ronnie to all of us was the laid-back, dirt-bike riding, surfer-hair waving cop you would always want at a party or with you on any call," Wurts said. Owens had the ability to be a "calm-down guy, an even keel who was able to put a perspective on things with few words."
He worked for the Washington State Patrol (WSP) from 1997 to 2004. As a commissioned officer, he was assigned to King and Pierce counties, writing tickets, arresting intoxicated drivers, and investigating collisions, among other duties, agency spokesman Sgt. Freddy Williams said.
Owens once bet a colleague that he would gain less weight than the other one year after they each graduated from the WSP academy. Owens won, Williams said. Owens was also an "ideal tenant," said Toni Strehlow, who managed a property Owens rented, a house with a white-picket fence near downtown Puyallup.
"When he rented from us, the first thing he did was replace walls and a patio door and he never charged us, never wanted a rent deduction. He just wanted to do for people," said Strehlow.
He was a good neighbor, too, said Charley Stokes who lived next door to him in Puyallup. "We'd talk over the back fence, have a beer once in a while."
Owens, who was divorced, was very proud of his daughter, he said.
Owens was excited about joining the Lakewood Police Department in 2004, looking forward to more regular hours and better advancement opportunities, Strehlow said.
She said she was speechless when she learned he had been killed. "It's just wrong. He was truly an unforgettable man and a kind, kind person."
Owens went into police work because his father, who died in 2006, was a detective, according to a neighbor, Edie Wintermute.
Owens checked in on her husband after surgery, she said. "He was a good father and very caring guy."
Officer Tina Griswold
Tina Griswold, 40, joined the Lakewood Police Department in 2004 and earlier this year won its Lifesaving Award.
"With her, it was all about wanting to make a difference," said U.S. Army Sgt. Kevin Muhlenbeck, who lived next door to her in Lacey from 2002 to 2005. "She was dedicated to her kids, dedicated to her career."
Muhlenbeck said he would often see her jogging, sometimes with her daughter. "When I was deployed to Iraq, she helped out my wife, who was then pregnant with our third child," Muhlenbeck said. "She was just a great neighbor and great person."
Griswold recently became involved in conservative politics, according to Wurts, her union president. "She was excited to be a part of the Olympia Tea Parties and proudly stated why she got involved in politics over the past year," he said in an e-mail to reporters.
She previously worked as a police officer in Shelton for three years. From 1998 to 2004, she was an officer and SWAT team member for the Lacey Police Department, said to Sgt. Scott Eastman, a former supervisor. The team served high-risk warrants and conducted high-risk entries, he said.
"Tina was an outstanding officer," Eastman said. "She was very assertive, and had no fear in dealing with high-risk situations and suspects that were larger than her. She had this presence about her that was in charge and you were going to do what she said. She had the verbal skills and the confidence to pull it off."
Griswold was a physical fitness buff, lifted weights and ran regularly, Eastman said. She stood about 5 feet and weighed less than 100 pounds.
"She could do 30 to 40 pull-ups," Eastman said. "We'd always joke that she didn't have much to lift."
"She was likable and enjoyed life," said her former father-in-law, Carroll Kelley of Shelton, Mason County.
She and Kelley's son met when both were students at Shelton High School, Kelley said. Griswold became a police officer after they divorced.
She is survived by her husband, Paul, a 21-year-old daughter, Nicole, and an 8-year-old son, Marcus 8, friends and relatives said.
Griswold was one of the first members of Lacey's tactical team, and the first woman to hold the job, Eastman said.
"She was a very hard worker and just a fun person to work with," he said. "She spent most of her free time with family. ... That was her priority."
Although she left Shelton to join the Lacey department, she still lived in town and would run into her former colleagues.
"The young officers looked up to her," Eastman said. "And she was a great partner for the experienced officers. She knew what she was doing."
Officer Gregory Richards
He was known as one of the sweet guys, the one everyone liked to work with.
Gregory Richards, 42, of Graham had eight years of law-enforcement experience, starting with work as a patrol officer in Kent.
He worked there from September 2001 until October 2004, before hiring on with the Lakewood Police Department.
The Kent department was going through layoffs because of budget cuts, and Richards sought a more secure situation for his family, said Lt. Lisa Price, public-information officer for the Kent department.
"He was a very well-respected and well-liked co-worker, and when he left we were sad to see him go," Price said. "People loved working alongside him. I firmly believe Greg would still be with Kent if we hadn't been going through layoffs.
"He was just a nice, cute, angelic guy."
He had a lighter side too. Richards was the drummer in an all-police officer rock band called Locked Down. The band played at social gatherings, including a recent police officers' motorcycle rally in Ocean Shores.
Richards is survived by his wife, Kelly, a daughter and two sons.
"Everyone is just here," said Melanie Burwell, a sister-in-law answering the door at Richards' home. "We are staying together."
Burwell said she last saw Richards at Thanksgiving. "It was wonderful," she said, fighting tears. "All he ever wanted was his family. He didn't want to do anything but be with them.
"If there were more people in this world like Greg, nothing like this would ever happen."
A neighbor, Mark Novak, said Richards, who lived in a subdivision called the Lost Creek community, was very well-liked there. "He was very kindhearted," Novak said. "He worked in his yard all the time. His kids were very well-behaved."
Novak said Richards' police cruiser, parked in front of his house, gave the neighborhood a sense of security. News of Sunday's shooting sent shock waves through the close-knit community, Novak said. "This has been such a horrific event," he said.
Staff reporters Katherine Long and Sanjay Bhatt contributed to this report.