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Nation & World

Santa Cruz gunman talked to detectives at door before ambush, sheriff says

(MCT) — SANTA CRUZ, Calif.—Santa Cruz police detectives spoke briefly with Jeremy Peter Goulet through his front door before he disappeared for a moment and emerged from another door with a handgun.

“We now know that the detectives had absolutely no chance to protect themselves or return fire,” Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak said Thursday at a news conference where he again was flanked by the top brass from every law enforcement agency in the county.

“They barely had the opportunity to turn and run,” Wowak said of detective Sgt. Loran “Butch” Baker and detective Elizabeth Butler.

Goulet, armed with a plane ticket, passport and two handguns, was under investigation for a break-in and alleged sexual assault of a former co-worker. He’s also being investigated by the Sheriff’s Office in connection with a sexual assault of a child, adding to an already lengthy list of sex and violence-related arrests stemming back more than a decade—not all of which the Santa Cruz detectives were aware of at the time.

The plainclothes detectives who were there to get Goulet’s “side of the story,” Wowak said.

“They were in the process of interviewing Goulet and had spent some time with him,” Wowak said. “During that interview, Goulet suddenly surprised the officers ... and shot and killed them within seconds.”

Using a .45 caliber Sig Sauer handgun, one of three registered to him, Goulet shot them on the doorstep of his home, tucked behind a preschool with dozens of children inside. Detectives haven’t said how many shots Goulet fired, but one of them struck a woman on nearby Stanford Avenue, grazing her in the leg. She was shaken up but not seriously injured.

Baker and Butler were not wearing body armor, Wowak said, pausing to hold back tears, he added, “Body armor would not have helped the officers.”

He declined to elaborate where they were shot or how many times, out of respect for their families.

Goulet stole the detectives guns and car keys and donned Baker’s bulletproof vest found inside the car.

At some point in the 30-minute showdown, Goulet texted his twin brother Jeffrey, “I’m in big trouble. I love you.”

Minutes after the first shooting, Goulet was dead after a shootout with authorities about a block away on Doyle Street. Wowak said they believe Goulet was trying to return to his home when a team of six officers and deputies encountered him on Doyle.

Using two guns, one of them Baker’s, Goulet fired multiple times on the officers hitting several vehicles, a Santa Cruz fire truck, but injuring no one. Four of the six officers returned fire, killing Goulet.

Those officers, three from the Santa Cruz Police Department and one from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, are now on routine paid administrative leave.

He had his passport and a plane ticket to New Mexico departing this week in his pocket when he died, Wowak said.

Wowak said the detectives had “limited” information on Goulet’s violent criminal history, which includes an arrest for an alleged rape in Hawaii and a gun conviction in Oregon and a dishonorable discharge from the military. The investigation had just begun.

“Sgt. Baker’s done this thousands of times,” Wowak said. “There was no information in their possession to our knowledge that could have prevented this.”

The new details come two days after the police officers’ deaths, which are the first in Santa Cruz police history.

Wowak said the officer’s left behind no case notes and hadn’t talked to supervisors much about the case, leaving them with little information about the level of detail the officers had on Goulet’s troubled past.

“Information about what they were investigating has been lost with their lives. They had no information that led them to believe that they were in danger, or that Goulet at that time was a danger to them.”

That’s not unusual as there is no database that includes everyone’s arrest records and case files from every city, county and state. That background would have come together as the case progressed.

The detectives were just beginning their investigation Tuesday and spent about 10 minutes on North Branciforte Avenue talking to people.

They arrived at Goulet’s doorstep and spoke to him through the door but never face-to-face, deputies said.

He refused to come out of the house, deputies said.

In the tense seconds that followed, Goulet drove about a block away to Doyle Street but found a Santa Cruz Fire ladder truck blocking the street.

He ditched the car on Doyle and “attempted to make his way back to his home” through an alley, Wowak said.

Authorities swarmed the area, including police, deputies and even State Parks rangers with rifles.

Six deputies and officers cornered Goulet, a former Marine and soldier. With a gun in each hand, one of them Baker’s, he fired on the officers; the three firefighters and bystanders near the ladder truck weren’t far away.

A firefighter dived on a woman to shield her as other firefighters rushed others to safety.

Goulet died in a hail bullets.

He leaves a violent criminal trail that spans from Southern California to Hawaii to the Bay Area and Oregon before he arrived in Santa Cruz last fall.

“We’re trying to put the puzzle pieces together to find out what was going on his life at this time and what his intentions were,” said Wowak.

While law enforcement works the investigation, plans a memorial service and attempts to put the pieces of their department back together, the rest of Santa Cruz is trying to make sense of the detectives’ deaths and the heightened level of crime.

A memorial service for Baker and Butler is planned for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium and Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant said “Their loss is unimaginable and to know their community is behind them means the world.”

But Bryant said “We are going to have to move forward. That will happen in the next few weeks.”

She said the community will be asked to participate in a conversation about public safety.

County Supervisor Zach Friend, the former Santa Cruz police spokesman, said the department remains in mourning, but Santa Cruz police will return to duty on Friday. They were relieved Wednesday and Thursday by the Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol.

“There’s no playbook for this. We don’t know what the next steps are,” Friend said.

Dozens of Santa Cruz residents have brought flowers, cards and notes at the Santa Cruz Police Department since Tuesday.

Brian Sullivan, a 60-year-old from the Westside, brought flowers Wednesday. His wife met Butler at a recent police community meeting and said she was “just the kind of person we want representing this city.”

He said the recent rash of crime in Santa Cruz—including a murder outside a bar Feb. 9, a University of California, Santa Cruz student shot at a bus stop and an armed robbery at a Mission Street grocery store—has many residents on edge.

“It’s like the Super Bowl of crime in Santa Cruz,” he said.

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