The community of Santa Cruz today is reeling from the deaths of two veteran police officers who were killed in a shooting on Tuesday afternoon by a man with a lengthy criminal history. “It’s been devastating, Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel said at a news conference outside police headquarters this morning. “There’s absolutely no words for me to adequately stand here before you and describe what my department’s been going through since yesterday afternoon.”
Detective Sgt. Loran “Butch” Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler were shot and killed after going to the home of 35-year-old Jeremy Goulet in the 800 block of North Branciforte Avenue at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday as part of an investigation into a misdemeanor sexual assault, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak said. Baker and Butler were dressed in plain clothes. Shortly after they arrived, Goulet shot them both at his doorstep, Wowak said.
When the officers went to Goulet’s home, they had no indication he was potentially violent, the sheriff said. “There should be no suspicion of second-guessing as to how they wound up where they were,” Wowak said. “They were just doing their job.” After the shooting, officers swarmed the neighborhood, set up a perimeter and began a house-to-house search for Goulet while emergency responders tried to save Baker and Butler. During the search, officers located Goulet, who opened fire on them, leading to a shootout on Doyle Road that left Goulet dead, Wowak said.
Santa Cruz police officers have all been given the day off today, and the city is being patrolled by the sheriff’s office and the California Highway Patrol, Vogel said. The police chief assured residents that the community is safe, and that there are as many officers on patrol today as there were yesterday. “You’re just going to notice that they’re wearing a different uniform,” Vogel said.
This morning, mourners had left bouquets of roses, lilies and other flowers in a makeshift memorial in front of the Santa Cruz Police Department at 155 Center St. An American flag had been placed there, and messages were handwritten on pieces of paper, including “Thank you for risking your lives for the greater good” and “SCPD thank you. Sorry for your losses.”
Sharon Garner, 66, of Santa Cruz, stopped by this morning to pay tribute to the fallen officers. Garner said she knew Baker because he had arrested her numerous times for various crimes. “He was always kind to me,” she said. “Whenever I was placed in handcuffs, he was always very kind.” She said she suffers from mental health issues and has spent time in supportive housing. “He believed in me,” Garner said.
Santa Cruz resident R.J. Piper, 25, said he services the Police Department’s vending machines. He said he believes the city, which has seen a wave of violent crimes even before Tuesday’s shootings, has an understaffed police force. “The crime rate is definitely high,” he said. “There are not enough cops. They work very hard.”
Baker, a 28-year veteran of the force, leaves behind his wife, two daughters and a son who now works with Santa Cruz police as a community service officer. Butler was a 10-year veteran assigned to investigations and leaves behind her husband Peter and two young sons, ages 5 and 1, Vogel said.
Wowak asked anyone with information on Goulet or Tuesday’s shootings to contact the sheriff’s office, which is investigating the case. Members of the public can submit information via email through a link that will be set up on the sheriff’s website at www.scsheriff.com or by phone during normal business hours at (831) 454-2311.
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