(LOS ANGELES) — Santa Cruz, Calif., about 60 miles south of San Francisco, is in shock. Never before has a police officer been killed in the line of duty in the seaside town. Now two veteran detectives are dead as colleagues piece together the events that led up to the violent encounter with a sexual assault suspect.
On Tuesday afternoon, Sergeant Loran “Butch” Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler went to the home of 37-year-old Jeremy Goulet to question him about a report that he had made unwanted sexual advances toward a co-worker. Goulet was a coffee shop worker who was fired last week and had numerous run-ins with the law. When the detectives knocked on Goulet’s front door they were met by gunfire.
“What we do know is what was left in the aftermath,” said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak, whose agency is investigating the murders of the two Santa Cruz police officers. “Both detectives were killed at the doorstep of Goulet’s home,” he told reporters.
Sgt. Baker and Det. Butler were disarmed by Goulet. With their bodies on his doorstep, police say Goulet then stole one of the officers’ cars and took off. He was quickly pinned in by responding officers.
“He was encountered by a team of officers from my agency and the Santa Cruz Police Department,” says Sheriff Wowak.
A gun battle erupted in the streets of the small town about a mile from a boardwalk popular with tourists. Responding firefighters and paramedics took cover. A fire engine was peppered with bullets. Firefighters ran to shield civilians who happened to be in the streets. Police say in one case a firefighter covered a civilian on the ground to shield that person from the gunfire.
After an intense battle in the streets, Goulet was killed. On his body, police say they found three handguns, two of which are believed to have been the guns he stole from the officers. He was also wearing a bulletproof vest. Police don’t know if he owned the vest or if he stole it from one of the dead officers.
Goulet’s family members say he had been distraught and had a vengeance for law enforcement. His father tells reporters his son had contempt for police.
Sgt. Baker was a 28-year veteran of the department.
“I considered Butch to not only be my co-worker, but he was also my mentor and he was also my friend,” said an emotional Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogal.
Baker leaves behind his wife, a son and two daughters.
Det. Butler joined the force 10 years ago. After completing her time on patrol and on a narcotics task force she became a sexual assault specialist. She leaves behind 5-year-old and 1-year-old sons.
“There’s no way for me to describe to you what my department has been going through,” says Chief Vogal.
The Santa Cruz Police Department is so overcome by the tragedy that every officer has been pulled off the streets and told to take some time off. Later in the week some officers will begin returning to patrol. In the meantime, deputies from the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Department and officers from the California Highway Patrol are on duty responding to calls in the city.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio