Monday, November 30, 2009

Lakewood Police Independent Guild President Shares Memories of His Four Slain Colleagues

Brian D. Wurts, President of the Lakewood Police Independent Guild, penned a touching and fitting tribute to his four fallen friends of the Lakewood, WA, Police Department who were gunned down Sunday morning as they sat in a coffee shop getting ready for their shift.

"I have never cried like I have over the past 16 hours and I hope sharing a couple things about these individuals will bring those citizens we are truly proud to serve closer to us."

  • Sergeant Mark Renninger: "Mark had that spark that made you like him and respect him. He was truly a rock in our department, someone you always counted on. Mark has three kids and a great wife that the toughest cop I knew softly spoke about. Mark is in heaven standing guard at the gate. I know this is true."

  • Officer Tina Griswold: "She was the toughest little cop I have ever known. Tina has two children and a husband who loves her deeply. My gut hurts that I missed your Halloween party this year."
  • Officer Ronald Owens: "Ronnie was my calm down guy, an even keel who was able to put a perspective on things with few words. Ronnie has a beautiful little daughter. We love you brother."

  • Officer Greg Richards: "Greg was a great cop who cared about one thing above all else, his family. He was a proud dad to three kids and wanted nothing more than to spend all of his time off with his wife and kids."
"God bless you Mark, Greg, Tina, and Ronnie boy. We cannot stop crying and we cannot stop hurting right now. WE love you all."

To read the full letter, please visit: To make a donation to the families of the fallen officers through the Lakewood Police Independent Guild, please visit:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Another Multiple-Fatality Tragedy: Four Officers Gunned Down in Lakewood, WA

In a year in which law enforcement fatalities are down overall, 2009 has been punctuated by intense bursts of violence against our nation's peace officers. The latest, particularly heinous incident occurred just after 8 am on Sunday in Washington state, when a gunman walked into a Pierce County coffee shop and open fired on four officers of the Lakewood Police Department who were going over plans for their upcoming shift. All four officers were killed in what area law enforcement officials are calling an execution. No other customers or employees in the coffee house at the time were injured.

On Sunday night, Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar identified the four slain officers as Sergeant Mark Renninger, age 39, and Officers Tina Griswold, 40, Ronald Owens, 37, and Greg Richards, 42. All four were veteran law enforcement officers, with between 8 and 14 years of experience each, and all four had been members of the Lakewood Police Department since it was founded five years ago in the community outside Tacoma. The officers were the first members of the relatively new police agency to be killed in the performance of duty. And Officer Griswold has the unfortunate distinction of being the first female officer in the United States to be killed this year.

Chief Farrar stated, "This is a very difficult time for our families and our officers. The families will have many challenges ahead of them and we ask that their privacy be respected. Please keep our families and Lakewood Police in your prayers.”

As of Sunday night, the Pierce County (WA) Sheriff's Department was looking for a "person of interest" in the case. He is identified as Maurice Clemmons, 37, a career criminal who was recently released from jail and has extensive criminal history in both Washington state and Arkansas.

Sunday's violent incident was the fourth multiple-fatality shooting of law enforcement officers this year. On March 21, four members of the Oakland (CA) Police Department were fatally shot following a traffic stop and subsequent search. Just two weeks later, on April 4, three Pittsburgh (PA) Police officers were gunned down by a heavily armed extremist wearing a bullet-resistant vest and lying in wait for the officers, who had been called by the gunman's mother for a domstic complaint. And three weeks after that, two Okaloosa County (FL) Sheriff's deputies were murdered while trying to arrest a man wanted in an earlier domestic incident.

The 13 officers shot and killed in these four incidents represent nearly 30 percent of the 44 officers who have been shot and killed so far this year, according to preliminary statistics from the NLEOMF. The preliminary data show that total law enforcement fatalities are down more than 7 percent this year, driven by a dramatic, 23 percent drop in traffic-related fatalities. However, firearms-related deaths are up 19 percent so far this year, and the 11-month total of 44 is already five more than occurred in all of 2008.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund extends our deepest sympathies to the families of the four officers killed today in Lakewood, WA, to Chief Farrar and all the members of the Lakewood Police Department, and to the citizens of Lakewood, who are coping with the loss of four of their dedicated protectors.

Follow continuing news coverage of the tragedy in Lakewood on the websites of the Tacoma News Tribune, the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Correction: In addition to the four multiple-fatality shooting incidents reported above, there was a fifth incident this past July 26, in which two Seminole County (OK) Sheriff's deputies were shot and killed while attempting to serve an arrest warrant. Therefore, 15 officers have been killed in multiple-fatality shootings this year, representing more than one-third of the firearms-related deaths this year in the U.S.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Radical Group's Appearance at UMass Sparks Police Outrage

The University of Massachusetts Amherst sparked outrage this week among law enforcement officers from as far away as New Jersey by inviting to campus members of the United Freedom Federation, a radical group that was responsible for anti-government bombings and other violence in the 1970s and 1980s. It was a member of the UFF who shot and killed New Jersey State Trooper Philip Lamonaco during a traffic stop just before Christmas of 1981.

The event, "The Great Western Massachusetts Sedition Trial: Twenty Years Later," was originally canceled by the University, but several professors, citing free speech, rescheduled the colloquium. Raymond Luc Levasseur, who was tried and acquitted of sedition charges in 1989, had been invited to speak, but the U.S. Parole Commission prohibited him from leaving the state of Maine. His ex-wife, Pat Levasseur, attended on his behalf.

On hand to protest her appearance were a few hundred police officers, law enforcement supporters and the family of Trooper Lamonaco -- his wife, Donna, daughter, Sarah, and son, Michael, who is following in his father's footsteps as a New Jersey State Trooper. They were joined by students holding signs decrying Levasseur and honoring the fallen trooper.

The UMass Police department presented the Lamonaco family with a donation of $2,000 to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in honor of Trooper Lamonaco. The donation represented the combined wages earned by the police officers who provided security at the controversial event.

Read more about the protest at

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remembering Sam Hicks: FBI Baltimore Field Office Renamed in Honor of Slain Agent

On November 19, 2008, FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks was serving a warrant in Indiana Township, PA, when he was fatally shot by the suspect's wife. Four days after the first anniversary of his death, on November 23, 2009, the FBI will rename the Balitmore Field Office in honor of Agent Hicks. Director Robert Mueller, along with other members of the FBI and Baltimore PD, are expected to attend the ceremony.

Agent Hicks joined the Baltimore City Police Department in 2002 and was hired by the FBI in March 2007. He was transferred to the FBI's Pittsburgh Field Office in August 2007. He is survived by his wife, Brooke, and son, Noah, age 3. This past May, during National Police Week 2009, his name was officially dedicated on Panel 63-E, Line 26 of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

For more information about Special Agent Hicks and the ceremony, please visit:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Humbling and Emotional Experience: Being in Seattle following the Death of an Officer

By John Shanks
Director of Law Enforcement Relations

This past Sunday, I left Washington, DC, to travel to Seattle, Washington, for two days of meetings with members of the Seattle Police Department. I was scheduled to update them on the Memorial Fund and the National Law Enforcement Museum project, and to seek their support. What I didn’t know at the time was that the previous evening, the Seattle Police Department had suffered a great tragedy: the loss of Officer Timothy Brenton, a highly respected Field Training Officer.

Halfway to Seattle, on lay-over in Phoenix, I received an e-mail from the Chief’s office explaining that the meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon had been canceled and the reasons why. I recall sitting on the plane staring at my Blackberry, not believing what I just read: an officer ambushed and assassinated as he sat in his patrol car. “How can I continue this trip?,” I asked myself. How could I possibly go on to Seattle right now, and not somehow “get in the way” of a department in crisis? My travel had been planned for two months, and I was halfway there. I had to continue on, I realized, but change the focus of my work. There was a much bigger issue here: the family, friends and colleagues of Officer Timothy Brenton.

I started to gather more information about the incident. Officer Brenton, a seasoned law enforcement professional, was parked on the side of the road talking with his trainee, Officer Britt Sweeney. They were reviewing a traffic stop the pair had just conducted. Suddenly, a sedan pulls up next to the patrol car, so close that Officer Sweeney could not open her door. Then the air erupted in gunfire – an ambush. Officer Brenton was hit and died almost immediately in the passenger seat of the patrol car. Officer Sweeney managed to return fire and call for help. A seemingly “routine” night on patrol for a rookie officer and her FTO had suddenly and inexplicably turned into violence and tragedy. One of Seattle’s protectors had been taken.

When I arrived in Seattle I called back to DC and spoke with Craig Floyd, our Chairman and CEO. I updated him on the details of the incident, and Craig, as always, offered sound advice on how I – and “we,” the Memorial Fund – could best support the Seattle Police Department. We agreed this was mainly a time to just “be there” for the Department, its officers and employees, as well as members of the community. I was honored to be invited to briefings on the incident with members of the Department, and I was graciously welcomed by the leadership and rank-and-file officers alike.

I called on the Seattle Police Officers Guild and offered to cancel my presentation, which was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Guild President Rich O’Neill met with me personally and said, “No, now is when we really need to hear from you.” During this crisis, when the city was in a massive manhunt to find the killer (or killers) who had ruthlessly assassinated Officer Timothy Brenton, the Guild still took the time to meet with me, to get a brief update on the Museum, but most of all, to talk about Officer Brenton and how we will always honor and remember him and all of those in law enforcement who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

I never met Officer Timothy Brenton, but being in Seattle and being with Tim’s brothers and sisters on the Police Department was a humbling experience for me. I spent 22 years in law enforcement myself. In Seattle, I felt the pain and grief, and witnessed firsthand the emotions of the many officers I encountered. I am honored to have been welcomed as a member of the Seattle Police family and to have shared with them this intensely difficult and emotional time. Most of all, my visit to Seattle put into sharp perspective just why my colleagues and I at the NLEOMF work so hard at what we do: to respect, honor and remember all of the heroes of American law enforcement.

When the time is right, I will return to Seattle and finish my meetings and conduct the business I had planned for this week. In the meantime, I join the entire law enforcement community in expressing my sincere sympathy and blessings to the family of Officer Timothy Brenton and the men and women of the Seattle Police Department. May you all be safe and watched over as you continue to protect the residents of Seattle.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why Should I Care About a Museum?

By Jim Donahue

It’s tough for everyone these days. Budgets are being cut. Vacant positions aren’t being filled. Some places have even had to layoff cops. Every group, organization, government, and charity seems to have more demands and fewer dollars to cover the needs.

At my house, I’m taking overtime and extra details or side work whenever possible to keep the bills paid. It’s tough right now.

The idea of a national law enforcement museum is really great. But, do we really need to spend money on that right now? How do I explain to my wife that I want to make a contribution to the Museum when money is needed so badly for other things?

First, anyone who is feeling this way can take a deep breath. It’s not how much is contributed by any one of us. If you want to Scotch tape four quarters to a card, stuff it in an envelope and send it off as your donation – that’s fine. If you don’t have an extra four quarters right now, that’s OK too.

Just remember that when you do have an extra buck, it would be welcomed by the NLEOMF to build the Museum. What is important is that we all contribute something, whether it’s cash, an item of memorabilia or our time to help with the project.


Remember the last time you were the target of disrespect from some ill-mannered, snot-nosed, dirtbag-in-the-making kid on the street? You might have been called a name or worse. You were treated like their worst enemy.

Do you remember how that felt? I do.

Maybe, those kinds of incidents would be less frequent if John Q. Public had a better understanding of what we are trying to do to protect them. Just maybe we would find that sharing our story would bring about a better understanding and more support for cops on the beat everywhere.


Answer: museums are places that both memorialize and validate many of America’s truly profound moments in history. They create a tangible history for experiences that can then be shared by those who weren’t there and for future generations.

Museums create a sense of respectability for an event or an organization, if you will. The list of museums is endless. But there are a few that I believe exemplify what I mean:

  • Civil War Museum, Harrisburg, PA

  • World War I Museum, Kansas City, MO

  • World War II Museum, New Orleans, LA

  • U.S. Marines Museum, Triangle, VA

  • U.S. Army Museum, Arlington, VA

  • U.S. Navy Museum, Washington D.C.

  • U.S. Air Force Museum, Dayton, OH

  • Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI

The last entry on the list documents the Industrial Revolution in America. There is currently no national museum for law enforcement. Like the military, our work continues. We are the warriors that protect the homeland. Our Museum and our Memorial will never be finished.

There are thousands and thousands of artifacts from the policing experience scattered around our great nation right now. Most of them are examples of our best moments. A few represent our worst. Collectively, they make up the tapestry that is policing today.

Without a national museum as a focal point of assembly, we risk losing these treasures to history. The Museum will be at the crosshairs of our existence. It will be the living place that constantly changes in order to best tell our story.


There can be no denying that a chasm has developed between cops and certain segments of our population. In some cases, us guys in uniform have done things to make the situation worse. Whether intentional or not, it has happened.

The police cannot effectively police a society that doesn’t want to be policed. Public support is vital to success in our mission.

Creating a national museum is going to help us regain the public support that we once had. Not overnight, for sure. But, it will happen. School kids by the tens of thousands go to Washington D.C. on class field trips every year from around the country.

They can be exposed to our story. They can see first hand what we have done – and continue to do. They can use all of their senses to know more about the experience of being a cop. They can know what we have and will face. They will know that our goal is to protect them.

Those school kids will take pictures with their cell phones and send them off to their friends. They will go home and tell of what they’ve seen. Their attitudes about cops will change – even if only a little – and it will be better.

A few of them will be so touched that they will be led to a career in law enforcement. They will join our ranks and become our brothers and sisters.


Through our words and our deeds, we can have a dramatic impact on how individual members of society treat us. We can make them hate us – forever. We can make them love us – or maybe just stop hating us.

We need every supporter that we can get.

No, sending those four quarters to the Museum probably won’t have any effect on your next shift. But, if we all work together, it just might have an effect on the lives of the young cops who will follow in our footsteps in years to come.

This is a risk worth taking and a cause worth supporting.

Jim Donahue is a native of the Midwest, getting his education at Michigan State University. He is a certified police officer in Florida and veteran police trainer with over twelve years of instructional experience. His training focuses on safe tactics for officers using in-car technology.

During his years in Michigan law enforcement, Jim worked with U.S. Customs & Immigration at the Detroit/Canada border in the year following the attacks of 9/11. He has also worked as a reserve patrolman on the streets of a suburban Detroit community.

Jim has been named an Ambassador for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in Washington, D.C.

Jim is a competitive bodybuilder, with six contests to his credit.