Friends, family remember fallen Santa Cruz officers

March 7, 2013 7:55:24 PM PST
Friends, family and co-workers Thursday gave a final salute to the two Santa Cruz officers killed in the line of duty. Det. Sgt. Butch Baker and Det. Elizabeth Butler were remembered in a memorial that was filled with laughter and tears.

Thursday morning, a motorcade that was several miles long traveled through Santa Cruz before heading north on state Highway 17, then taking highways 85 and 87 toward HP Pavilion in San Jose. Two fire trucks at the arena formed an arch with their ladders where an American flag was hanging.

Co-workers told stories of the two officers, who were killed last week during their investigation of a sexual assault complaint, including tales of Baker's penchant for wearing shorts and NASCAR-esque driving style and Butler's high-fiving the judge who signed her first search warrant.

Family members also took the stage at HP Pavilion to remember their loved ones. "If I had to pick one word for you, it would be 'integrity,'" Baker's daughter Jillian said.

"I miss you so much, Beth. We will miss you so much. Goodbye, my love," Butler's partner Peter Wu said while on stage with one of the couple's two young sons.

California Gov. Jerry Brown, Calif. Attorney General Kamala Harris, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Rep. Sam Farr also attended the service, although only Harris and Panetta spoke. Former American Idol contestant and Santa Cruz native James Durbin performed at the memorial.

Oakland police arrived in a contingent with others from Alameda County. Having lost four of their own four years ago, for Oakland, the service was deeply personal.

"Everyone here takes this job very seriously; we risk our lives every day," Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said. "When something like this happens, it really hits home on a personal level. We all start thinking about our own mortality."

Law enforcement officials from out of town and out of state traveled to San Jose for Thursday's memorial, some expecting to absorb the cost themselves.

James Dayton is an officer from Ceres in Stanislaus County, where an officer was shot and killed eight years ago.

"I don't need to be paid for it," he said. "If it works out that way and the department allows that, then that's fine. If not, I'll take time off or comp day."

A public viewing took place Wednesday for the officers. Two flag-draped coffins with photographs of the officers were set up at a funeral home. Members of the public got the opportunity to have a quiet moment with the two police heroes, to pray if they wish, and to mingle with others who knew them. The officers were loved and respected in their community.

"To them, it was just another day at the office, but we have to realize what their office was like, in our community. Just heartfelt thanks and such sorrow for their family, and I'm grateful that the community and we're able to show this outpouring of support," said Santa Cruz resident Linda McPherson.

Santa Cruz residents who could not attend the memorial in San Jose were able to watch a live video feed at the Kaiser Permanente Arena and the Del Mar Theater in Santa Cruz.

A Butch Baker and Elizabeth Butler Scholarship Fund has been established. Donations can be made through the Santa Cruz city website.

Due to live coverage of the memorial, daytime progamming was rescheduled. Click here for details.

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