Stunned neighbors are returning to their homes near the scene of a dramatic gun battle. Garage doors riddled with bullet holes mark the spot of the deadly shoot out. "Apparently this guy came out here with a gun in each hand just shooting at the cops and them shooting at him," Santa Cruz resident Clifford Haggarty recalled.
Veteran Santa Cruz police officers Sgt. Loran Butch Baker and his colleague, Det. Elizabeth Butler, were killed when outside a home on Branchiforte Avenue. Police say 35-year-old suspect Jeremy Goulet met them with gunfire when they went to his home to investigate a possible sexual assault. "I heard it all, a volley of about a dozen gunshots. It was really loud and it was really obviously that they were gunshots," witness Jesse Limich said.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak said they believe Goulet disarmed the officers after shooting them and then stole Baker's vehicle.
A manhunt for Goulet unfolded and less than an hour later, he was spotted blocks away and killed after a brief shootout with police. He was wearing body armor and had three different handguns on him.
"I feel for the family and I know that she had young kids. I'm sorry. I can't even talk about it," Santa Cruz resident Jessica Corona told ABC7 News. She is just one of many people overcome with grief and confusion about the tragedy. Many worry that their quiet beach town has changed, forever. "It's kind of crazy. I grew up in New York City and I didn't see this kind of violence," Haggarty said.
Baker was a 28-year veteran of the department who spent several of those years as a field training officer. Police Cheif Kevin Vogel even credited Baker with helping shape the current department and described him as his best investigator. He leaves behind a wife, two daughters and a son, who works as a community service officer for the department.
Butler was a 10 year veteran of the force. She was originally from Southern California and leaves behind a husband and two children.
Butler graduated from UC Santa Cruz, where, former instructor Michael Rotkin says, as a community studies major, it was unusual for a student to become a police officer.
"Her idea to police was as a way that she could make a difference and she could communicate with people and she had a kind of community policing attitude towards it," Rotkin said.
"The darkest day in the history of the Santa Cruz Police Department," Vogel said. The department has posted a message on its Facebook page saying, "We appreciate all of your love and support during this unbelievably difficult time. We are all one family and one community. Thank you for standing with us."