This week marks the first anniversary of the tragic deaths of 2 SCPD officers who gave their lives in the line of duty. It was the first time in the history of the SCPD that they lost an officer in the line of duty, over 150 years. And they lost another the same day. Officers Butch Baker and Elizabeth Butler were outstanding officers who were much loved by the community and are deeply missed.
Anyone who lived in Santa Cruz at the time can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they found out the news. And I, like probably a lot of people, first heard the news break on social media. I heard it on Facebook, in the Take Back Santa Cruz group, when a member posted something so shocking at first nobody could believe it and took them to task for even posting it. He simply said that 2 SCPD officers had been shot and were down in his neighborhood. This was real time, unfiltered news. As things unfolded and it turned out to be true, everything played out in real time like a real life horror movie.
I also happened to be watching the Santa Cruz city council meeting, going on live at city hall and being shown on cable TV. I was watching a debate unfold between the council about the need for First Alarm security guards patrolling the river levee, and whether it was really necessary. As I watched the debate live on TV, and knowing what I had just read on Facebook, I started to hear sirens. Lots of sirens. I live near downtown, so I was hearing the sirens outside my door and on TV during the council meeting. Then a number of things began to happen. The council took a short recess, then came back very upset and shaken and cancelled the remainder of the meeting. That’s when I knew that what I had read on Facebook had more truth and validity by the minute. And that’s when Facebook became real time news, people living in the effected neighborhoods giving real time updates. Complete chaos.
And I felt both horrified and completely helpless and useless. I wanted to do something to help, but obviously I didn’t want to get in the way of an active crime investigation. But I felt so restless sitting at home. So I decided I’d walk the few blocks from my house to the SCPD main station and just see if anyone else was down there. As it started to get dark, I thought maybe some people would go down there for a candlelight vigil or to just be together in such a difficult moment. I arrived and didn’t see anyone else there, but there were a few officers setting up what was likely an information triage center (and place for SCPD to gather) in the community room. I didn’t want to bother anyone or get in anyone’s way, so I asked one of the officers if it would be ok for me to leave a few candles for the officers outside in the courtyard. They said sure, and I expressed my sadness and left them alone. Then I made this:
I hung out a little bit by myself, thinking about everything going on. Then I walked home. As the night went on, more people began to show up and brings candles, flowers, notes, and other items to create an incredible memorial from the community. And it grew into something really special and heartfelt, just an outpouring of love and grief from the community.
This week, on Wednesday, SCPD will dedicate a permanent memorial garden in the location of the original memorial tribute. They have kept many of the donated plants from that original memorial and hope to integrate them into the new garden design. They will never be forgotten.
SCPD Memorial Gallery Slideshow