SANTA CRUZ — On Feb. 26 Santa Cruz Police Detective Elizabeth Butler and Sgt. Loran Butch Baker were shot and killed in the line of duty while investigating Jeremy Goulet for a sex-related crime. Goulet, who had recently been fired from a Santa Cruz café, ambushed Butler and Baker and killed them at his doorstep. He was shot and killed 30 minutes later by police.
Printed here are letters from both officers’ families, in their entirety.
Letter from Butler and Wu Families
On February 26th, life as we knew it ended. Our beloved Elizabeth Butler, daughter, sister, mother, partner, and police officer, lost her life suddenly, unexpectedly, and cruelly. Elizabeth was a 10-year veteran of the Santa Cruz Police Department. In her capacity as a detective in charge of sexual assaults, she was carrying out a somewhat ordinary interview along with Sgt. Butch Baker when the unthinkable happened. A man inexplicably exited his house with a gun. Elizabeth and Butch did not have a chance. After they were so heartlessly murdered, the future for their families was altered forever.
We, Louise Butler, Elizabeth’s mother, Peter Wu, Elizabeth’s partner, and Alexis Butler, Elizabeth’s sister, have just reached the one-month anniversary of Elizabeth’s death, and we miss her terribly. Each day is filled with both tears and moments of deep sadness. Yet almost every day of the past month has also included moments of awe and amazement at the love and honor paid to Elizabeth’s memory. We have so many people to thank from those that we know well to those that are complete strangers. We think of our relationships with the people around us as concentric circles, like the ever-widening circles that radiate out from a stone dropped in a pool of water. We have been helped by so many in so many ways that any attempt to thank everyone is doomed to failure, but here is our best attempt to say that we are humbled and touched by the thousands of people who told us that Elizabeth’s life meant something.
First, we would like to thank Stellan and Joaquin Wu, Elizabeth’s sons, for keeping us healthy. These young boys, age 2 and 5, have shown us what is really important: three good meals a day, sleep each night, and lots of playing. Sometimes playing is the real work of life. Second, we would like to thank our immediate neighbors and extended families who arrived within days of Elizabeth’s death to hug us, remember with us, and cry with us. At these times, family and neighbors are so important. Third, we would like to thank the Santa Cruz Police Department who became like sisters and brothers to us. They protected us, advised us, shepherded us, and anticipated our every need. Specifically, we would like to acknowledge the help of Officer Karina Ceceña, our liaison with the SCPD. So many police officers met with us daily and so many did superhuman tasks unseen by us. The officers we got to know best were officers Joe Hernandez, Saul Rodriguez, Trevor Kendall, Wendy Bynes and David Perry. In addition, Police Chief Kevin Vogel met with us several times to talk about the details of Elizabeth’s death. Both Chief Vogel, along with Deputy Police Chief Rick Martinez, gave us much support and attention. Thank you to the many SCPD police officers that came forward and told us specific stories about Elizabeth’s time at her job. They made us laugh and also showed us how much they cared and remembered.
On March 7th, we left early in the morning in an amazing procession of vehicles headed north on Highway 17th to the HP Pavilion in San Jose where thousands of members of the public and law enforcement agencies from far and wide celebrated the lives of the two fallen officers from Santa Cruz. We had barely reached the end of our driveway when our tears started falling at the sight of neighbors holding huge banners celebrating Elizabeth. As we traveled through the streets of Santa Cruz, the sight of hundreds of citizens with their hands over their hearts touched us deeply. At every overpass over Highway 17, firemen stood on fire trucks saluting Elizabeth and Butch. Community members and law enforcement officers together crowded every intersection till we reached our destination. The acknowledgement of Elizabeth’s and Butch’s lives by dignitaries, friends, and officers helped us know that these two dedicated people would not simply cease to exist. Their lives and the sacrifice that they made would be recognized. They meant so much to us, and they also meant so much to others.
Since the service in San Jose, there have been so many people who have befriended us. Special thanks goes to Santa Cruz Memorial, the Santa Cruz Fire Department, the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s deputies, the California Highway Patrol, the Santa Cruz Metro, Holy Cross Catholic Church, Westside Parent Education Nursery School, Musical Me, Scotts Valley Market, Otoro Sushi Restaurant in Scotts Valley, and hundreds of people who have sent us cards, scholarship funds, and gifts. Throughout the last month, the Santa Cruz Police Department has continued to assist us in putting our lives back together.
Our hope is to do more than survive. We want to raise two young boys to be honorable citizens like their mother. We, Elizabeth’s mother, partner, sons, and sister, want to become strong enough to someday give something back to this incredible community, a community that helped us so much when we were suffering. We want to put our lives back together to become people that Elizabeth would admire, the kind of people who make Santa Cruz and the cities around Santa Cruz such wonderful places to live. While everyone may experience sadness and possibly tragedy at some point in their lives, we have the special honor of having received a rare gift from you the community. We have glimpsed, in the outpouring of support from the people of Santa Cruz and surrounding cities, that goodness will prevail and small acts of love will redeem our aching hearts.
Letter from the family of Sergeant Loran “Butch” Baker.
The events of February 26th changed our lives forever. Every police spouse's worst nightmare became my reality when I was told of my husband's in-the-line-of-duty death. The details, emotions, and circumstances surrounding the events of Butch's death have become surreal and definitely overwhelming.
The presence and incredible support from all county emergency responders was seen and felt by my family. My son, a Santa Cruz Police Department Community Service Officer, was working when his father was killed and it will take time for him to heal. My daughter is a Trauma Critical Care Nurse in Texas. Realizing she might be alone when we called to advise her of the tragic events we chose to contact the local police department for support. Without hesitation they immediately sent a police officer to be with her when she called home. Following the notification the police officer stated that out of respect for Butch he would stand watch outside her door throughout the night. The officer remained at that post until my daughter left for the airport the following morning. My daughter has since returned to Texas and was again greeted by their Victims' Advocate who afforded her with local grief counseling and support contacts. Knowing they would be there for her when I could not helped to ease my mind. The police department's actions and gracious support are sincerely appreciated from a mother's heart.
I mourn my husband, not for the police officer he was, but for the loss of my true love, childhood sweetheart, and soul mate. Our lengthy ‘when I retire’ discussions were shattered in an instant along with our hopes and dreams of a beautiful future together. Our family's "normal" is no longer; every day we fumble for a new normal or anything that feels even remotely the same as it was before February 26th. The truth is, nothing will ever feel quite right, but the sincere outpouring of love and support from our Santa Cruz community has given us the strength and courage to carry on. The hundreds of cards, thoughts, and warm wishes are deeply appreciated and acknowledged.
I continue to fill my quiet nights reading the cards and notes sent from all over the country. The children's pictures of their "Hero Butch" bring tremendous pride and strength to my now broken heart. According to the children, Butch now has wings, is in the clouds, has a halo, and sometimes he even wears a cape. They tell me jokes to try and make me feel better or share in their personal story of losing someone special. These heartfelt cards, flowers, and gifts are unique and very special to me and my family. A teddy bear wearing a United States Service Member's Purple Heart was left at the memorial site in honor of the ultimate sacrifice, former Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta gave me a Challenge Coin stating my husband was a true warrior, and Congressman Sam Farr presented me with a condolence letter signed by 33 State of California Congress Members indicating this horrible tragedy has united all of California. Butch and Elizabeth were acknowledged in the Senate by Senator Monning; they have a Congressional Record Remembrance stating they were extraordinary officers; received Medal of Honor Awards from the American Police Hall of Fame and will have their names etched in the marble walls at the Florida memorial.
I've received condolence letters from the United States Secret Service, Director of the FBI, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Leon Panetta stating Butch left a "beacon of heroism and honor that will never be forgotten." Words cannot express my gratitude to everyone who has stepped forward to give me a hug or simply say they are sorry for my loss.
My daily healing is in part due to the nationwide outreach of compassion and kindness. My husband would have been so proud of his community's support and the love shown to his family. Butch spent 28 years protecting his beloved Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz responded with the utmost respect and honor to him and his years of his service. I have lived in Santa Cruz for over 20 years and I couldn't be more proud to call this city my home.
I must formally acknowledge and relay to the community my family's continual gratitude to Santa Cruz Police Sergeant Michael Harms and his family. They continually stand by our sides, support us everyday, and carry out our wishes. We may have lost a husband and father, but gained the love and support of hundreds of Law Enforcement Officers and Emergency First Responders.
I personally thank my cousin Carol Koller for staying with me for the month following Butch's death. She took command of all situations, answered all phone calls, and instantly was nicknamed "Sarge" for her organization, control, and support to me and my family. I could never repay her for the assistance and love she gave during my darkest days. Howard and Renee Skerry immediately came to my aid and also helped me with anything I needed. Kayla Gray has taken friendship to a new level and continually watches over us. Thank you to Loran and Virginia Baker, Sandy Perez and all my family members who came from all over the United States to be with their grieving relative. My relatives were filled with awe and astonishment at the outpouring of love and support from Santa Cruz. It was seen throughout the city and lined the streets, all the way to the memorial service at the HP Pavilion.
I would like to thank Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Congressman Sam Farr, the entire Santa Cruz Police Department and Chief Kevin Vogel, Donna Lind, The Fallen Officers Foundation, Renee Hassna Executive Director Oakland Police Officer's Association, Mike Pool and The West Coast Post Trauma Retreat Center and Peer Counselors, Pastor Rene Schlaepfer, James Durbin, Santa Cruz Warriors, San Jose Sharks and HP Pavilion, San Francisco Giants, Rod Chambers and NASCAR, C.O.P.S. President Tami McMillan, Attorney General Kamala Harris, California Governor Jerry Brown, Santa Cruz Mayor Hillary Bryant, National Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation, California Peace Officer's State Memorial Foundation, American Police Hall of Fame and Museum, Deputy District Attorney Jeff Rosell, Capitola Police Chief Rudy Escalante, Santa Cruz Police Deputy Chief Steve Clark, Watsonville Police Department, Capitola Police Department, Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Association, UC Santa Cruz Police Department, Scotts Valley Police Department, Georgetown Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Santa Cruz County Fire Departments, Grief Counseling of Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz County Emergency Dispatch Center, AMR, San Jose Police Department, San Jose Fire Department, Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Employee Association, Santa Cruz County Probation Employees Association, Attorney/Fallen Officer Foundation Board Member Larry Brenner, Santa Cruz Memorial, Paradox Hotel, Twin Lakes Church, Superior Alarm Company, Benefits Communication Network, Summit Uniform, Coroner Dr. Richard Mason, Zach Friend, Irma Rios, Karen Goehring, Jackie Tripodi, Wes Grant, Gloria Simpson, Steve and Robin Black, Joseph Heartsner, Dr. James Cartwright D.C., Carl and Patty Kustin, Well Within, Scotts Valley High School, Tammy
Montague, Sue Faria, Kianti's, Chardonnay II Sailing, California Pizza Kitchen, and the countless others who gave their support.
My hope is to show strength to the law enforcement families and resonate the love that has been given to me throughout the nation. I am now walking in the shoes of a police officer widow, I am filled with respect and admiration for my husband and his fellow Police Officer Elizabeth Butler. My family and I join hands and step forward to endue dignity and respect to law enforcement officers for being who they are and for what they represent.
Thank you for the incredible kindness and sincere affection.
Respectfully, Kelly Baker, widow of Sgt. Baker, Jillian, daughter, and Adam, son.
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