The Santa Cruz Police Department announced plans for a permanent memorial garden to honor fallen officers Sgt. Loran “Butch” Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler, on Nov. 12.
The memorial garden will take the place of the makeshift memorial of flowers, notes and letters that appeared outside of the police station after the tragedy occurred in February.
Sgt. Baker and Detective Butler were interviewing a man suspected of sexual assault when the suspect appeared with a gun and fired, hitting the two officers. The suspect stole the keys to the police car and took body armor and a gun from the car. He attempted to return to his home when six officers encountered him close to the house. The suspect fired at the police, but only hit vehicles. He was killed when the officers returned fire.
Sgt. Baker, a veteran of 28 years, is survived by his wife, his son and his two daughters. Detective Butler, a veteran of 10 years, is survived by her partner and two children.
Local landscaper Cindy West created the design for the memorial garden. West contacted the police department and volunteered her time and energy to the project.
“I kept feeling like I needed to do something … I don’t know where the idea came from, it was just like, ‘What can I do to help?’” West said. “I couldn’t do anything else, so I decided I would volunteer to make a memorial garden.”
West, a lifelong Santa Cruz local, lives close to where the incident occurred, and was caught in traffic when the police and fire department attempted to clear the scene.
The construction of the memorial garden will be carried out by local construction company Putt Construction. Peter Putt, owner of the company, also volunteered for the project.
“We were approached to see what it’ll take to do some electrical work for the memorial and I basically said, ‘Whatever you guys need, just let me know and we’ll do it,’” Putt said. “I’m doing it because I knew Butch and Elizabeth. They were friends and the police department is dear to my heart.”
Putt acknowledged the temporary memorial set up outside the police department and how the memorial garden will compare.
“The community would like to see something more permanent,” Putt said. “Certainly every member of law enforcement and the fire department, the whole EMS services — this is something they’ll never forget. The memorial itself will be a fitting tribute to the fallen comrades.”
Almost nine months after the tragic events, the community is slowly recovering and regaining its sense of unity and safety. The general feeling around this project is hopefulness for the future.
“I hope it gives the community a place to find some closure and also a place to continue to honor them and the officers who are still on duty and who continue to put their lives on the line every single day,” West said.
The memorial is scheduled to be completed on the anniversary of the incident, Feb. 26, 2014.