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Lakewood police tragedy fuels outpouring of appreciation in Federal Way

Olympic View students, Michael Larsen, Derwin Feliy and Gaby Boyd present Federal Way police officers handmade cards and a banner showing the student body
Olympic View students, Michael Larsen, Derwin Feliy and Gaby Boyd present Federal Way police officers handmade cards and a banner showing the student body's appreciation for the police force.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard, The Mirror

Following the tragic homicides of four Lakewood law enforcement officers, Federal Way police have seen an abundance of support from the community.

At a Dec. 15 city council meeting, interim police chief Andy Hwang thanked the community for its kind words and actions shown toward the Federal Way police force following the Nov. 29 homicides of Lakewood law enforcement officers Ronald Owens, 37, Tina Griswold, 40, Greg Richards, 42, and Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39.

The incident has shaken law enforcement and everyday citizens alike. Hwang said Federal Way police have received various forms of support and appreciation from the community. Churches, students and everyday citizens have helped local officers cope with the shocking events.

"We appreciate the countless number of e-mails, phone calls, cards, letters...," interim police chief Andy Hwang said at the meeting. "The outpouring support of our citizens, it means a lot to our officers and staff. It does make a difference."

Police were honored for their service Dec. 18 by hundreds of younger residents. Students at Olympic View Elementary dedicated a portion of their year-end assembly to the officers. Members of the student council presented several officers with handfuls of handmade thank you cards. Fifth-grader Michael Larsen, school president, read a letter of appreciation to the officers.

"The students of Olympic View would like to honor you and thank you for serving and protecting our community," read the letter. "Thank you for keeping us and our families safe."

Fifth-graders Gaby Boyd, school secretary, and Derwin Feliy, school treasurer, then presented the officers with a hand-painted banner thanking them for their service. The letters and banner were the school council's idea, but all the students participated in making the gifts. The items are a way to say "thank you for what you do," Derwin said. They are a means for the students to show their appreciation to the officers for "keeping us safe," Gaby said. The assembly was important because it showed Federal Way police that Olympic View students realize the officers risk their lives to protect the community, Michael said.

The support of the community has helped carry the officers through a hard time, Federal Way Lt. Kurt Schwan said. Schwan, a K-9 officer, knew Sgt. Renninger. The two enjoyed coffee together a few times during a period when Schwan helped Renninger train his dog, Schwan said.

Like many officers, Schwan said his first reaction to hearing about the slayings of the Lakewood officers was unpleasant.

"If just makes you physically sick to think something like that could happen," he said.

Schwan has served as an officer for 13 years. He's been with the Federal Way force for 11 years. His wife is also a police officer. The couple's children know their parents perform a dangerous job and are rightfully concerned for their safety, he said.

Police are called to respond to situations that everyday citizens are not comfortable or capable of dealing with, Schwan said. Those incidents are often dangerous. While some citizens thank police for their response and service, many forget to show their appreciation, Schwan said.

"A lot of people take it for granted what we do sometimes," he said.

Shows of support, such as that seen at Olympic View, let officers know the community values and cares for them, Schwan said. It means a great deal, he said.

Several mementos, received by Federal Way police, are hanging at the police station, Hwang said.

"It did carry us through a very difficult time and the support for the law enforcement community is appreciated," he said.

The families

The Lakewood officers were gunned down Nov. 29 by Maurice Clemmons, 37, at the start of their work day at a Parkland coffee shop. Following a two-day manhunt, Clemmons was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer when he stopped to inspect a stolen vehicle and discovered Clemmons, who pulled a gun on the officer.

Those interested in supporting the families of the slain officers are welcome to make a donation through the Lakewood Police Independent Guild (LPIG) Benevolent Fund at P.O. Box 99579, Lakewood, WA 98499. For more information on making a donation, visit www.lpig.us.

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