Fallen Santa Cruz officers were taken by surprise

February 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff Thursday described the deaths of two veteran officers as an ambush. They were taken down in seconds, he said.

Authorities now say the two detectives were ambushed when Jeremy Goulet opened fire on them with his .45-caliber handgun.

Detective Sergeant Loran "Butch" Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler were investigating a sexual assault complaint when they went to speak with 35-year-old Jeremy Goulet. They found him at home but he wouldn't come out of the house to speak to them. He suddenly came out another door, surprising the officers and fatally shooting them with his own .45 caliber gun.

The sheriff's department says the pair had no chance to protect themselves or return fire.

"Neither officer was wearing body armor at the time of the incident," Sheriff Phil Wowak said. "However, body armor would not have helped."

After murdering the detectives, Goulet took their guns, then their patrol car, and drove away, but for some reason returned, trying to get back to his home.

When he turned onto Doyle Street, a fire truck was blocking the road. The fire truck took four bullets and likely saved the lives of innocent bystanders when a gunfight broke out. It forced Goulet to duck down an alleyway and into the path of a group of officers.

Goulet was wearing Butler's body armor when he opened fire on the officers with guns in both of his hands. They returned fire, killing Goulet. On his body, police found the slain officers' guns, as well as evidence he may have been trying to leave town.

"He also possessed his passport and an airplane ticket to the state of New Mexico, and he was due to fly out this week," Wowak said.

While the investigation continues, members of the close-knit Santa Cruz community are coming out in an endless show of support for the men and women who keep them safe.

"Our fire department, police force, emergency services of every kind -- they're there for us," resident Kirk Gandolfi said.

Police Chief Kevin Vogel said late Thursday that after two days of grieving, his officers will return to the streets Friday morning.

Suspect had long history of arrests

Jeremy Goulet has a long history of arrests for various sex crimes, but spent very little time in jail.

He was arrested in San Diego, Portland and Berkeley for peeping through windows at women, going all the way back to 1999.

While he was an Army helicopter pilot in Hawaii, he was charged with raping two enlisted women in 2006 and 2007. But the Army dropped the charges and discharged him.

ABC7 News spoke with Goulet's defense attorney, who explained why the Army agreed to dismiss the charges in exchange for an "other than honorable discharge."

"I can say there were identification issues in the first case, and in the second case, there was credibility issues," Donald Wilkerson said. "The girl, the young woman, was extremely drunk. They would have had problems proving the case."

Wilkerson says the rape charges against Goulet were never shared with other law enforcement agencies.

Neighborhood still shocked by shootings

One of Goulet's bullets traveled a fifth of a mile away, hitting a woman who had just parked her car on Stanford Avenue.

"She saw an object arching through the air and it hit her in her hip, didn't break the skin, it didn't go through her clothing," said Melissa Gerlach, a witness.

The woman was about to be interviewed by Gerlach as a babysitter when the bullet swept across the sky.

"I'm glad that it was far away enough to not cause injury," said Gerlach.

Realtor Howard Allen chokes up when he talks about the officers killed not far from his Doyle Street office. He's also trying to deal with what he went through Tuesday, when gunfire rang out far too close for comfort.

"I dove underneath my desk; I figured it's oak, maybe it would stop something," Allen said.

Jesse Lemic was questioned by the detectives as they tried to make contact with Goulet just moments before they were killed.

"It's pretty intense," Lemic said. "Being the last person to interact with them, there's a connection now."

James Cooper shot video from his cellphone as police moved toward Goulet's home right after the officers were shot.

"It's tragic, but you have to move on and you have to realize that there are criminals out there and you can't stop them all," he said.

Robert Mitchell wasn't there when police opened fire on Goulet, but his van was. Thursday when he and his son returned to it, they found a slug inside of it and two bullet holes on the outside.

"There's one that went in the engine compartment and now it won't start," he said.

There are memorials springing up in the neighborhood where Tuesday's tragedy unfolded -- one at a street corner and another on the doorstep of Goulet's now unoccupied bungalow.

"All our neighbors feel the same way we do, just shocked and it's just surprising, you know," Justin Davis

Memorial plans underway

A memorial service for the two fallen officers has now been set for Thursday at the Kaiser Permanente Arena downtown at 11 a.m.

The Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium has been set aside for the overflow, but thousands of people are expected to attend and officials are concerned that the two venues may not be big enough.

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