Sky Hall leaves flowers in front of the Santa Cruz Police Department on Wednesday… (Thomas Mendoza / Associated…)
SANTA CRUZ — Flags throughout this sparkling beach town flew at half-staff Wednesday. The entire Police Department was meeting with grief counselors. Handmade signs cropped up, sympathy cards to a stunned city.
"Thank you for your service Santa Cruz Police Department. RIP Detective Baker. RIP Detective Butler." That's what Mary Gregg wrote in neat black letters on yellow construction paper, hanging her message in the window of the downtown check-cashing store where she works.
"Something," she felt, "had to be said today."
Best known for its surfing museum and a roller coaster that Bay Area newspaper columnist Herb Caen described as "one long shriek," Santa Cruz is not used to the kind of pain that rippled through town the day after a gunfight left two veteran officers -- and the man they were investigating -- dead.
The city's Police Department, which has less than 100 sworn officers, had operated for 150 years without losing a single one in the line of duty. Until Tuesday afternoon, when two veteran detectives in plainclothes walked up to Jeremy Goulet's house as part of a misdemeanor sexual assault investigation.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, March 01, 2013 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 Local Desk 1 inches; 58 words Type of Material: Correction
Santa Cruz police: In the Feb. 28 Section A, an article about the slaying of two Santa Cruz police detectives said that a spate of recent crime in the city included the beating and rape of a 21-year-old woman on the UC Santa Cruz campus. UC officials say they have determined that the woman's report was a hoax.
Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker, 51, and Det. Elizabeth Butler, 38, were killed on Goulet's doorstep, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak said during a news conference near an impromptu memorial at police headquarters.
"We don't know all that happened when they came into contact with Goulet," said Wowak, whose department is leading the investigation so Santa Cruz police can mourn. "We do know what was left in the aftermath."
The 35-year-old Goulet, who had a long history of run-ins with the law, killed and disarmed the detectives before fleeing in Baker's car, Wowak said. Law enforcement officers from throughout the region began a sweep of the Santa Cruz neighborhood where Baker and Butler were slain. A short time later, Goulet ditched the car and tried to flee on foot.
In the ensuing gun battle, Wowak said, Goulet shot up a firetruck, sending firefighters, medical personnel and passersby scrambling. After killing the suspect, authorities discovered Goulet had been wearing body armor and had three guns.
"It is our belief that two of the three weapons belonged to the Santa Cruz Police Department, but we haven't confirmed it," said Wowak, adding that it was still unclear whether Goulet had taken the body armor from Baker's car or had it on before the shooting broke out.
"We know now that he was distraught," the sheriff said. "We know now that he had the intention of harming himself and possibly the police.... There's no doubt in anyone's mind that the officers who engaged Goulet stopped an imminent threat to the community."
Goulet had been arrested Friday on suspicion of disorderly conduct. Local news accounts said he had broken into the home of a co-worker and been fired from his job at The Kind Grind coffeehouse Saturday. A manager at the beachfront shop declined to comment Wednesday.
According to Goulet's father, the barista -- who recently had moved from Berkeley to Santa Cruz -- was a ticking time bomb who held police and the justice system in deep contempt. Ronald Goulet, 64, told the Associated Press that his son had had numerous run-ins with the law and had sworn he would never go back to jail.
But the elder Goulet said he never thought his troubled son would turn to such violence.
Goulet said his son undermined any success in the military (he reportedly was a member of the Marine Corps Reserves and later the Army) or college because of an insatiable desire to peep in the windows of women as they showered or dressed.
"He's got one problem, peeping in windows," his father said. "I asked him, 'Why don't you just go to a strip club?' He said he wants a good girl that doesn't know she's being spied on, and said he couldn't stop doing it."
In 2008, a Portland, Ore., jury convicted Jeremy Goulet on misdemeanor counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and invasion of personal privacy after he peeked into a woman's bathroom as she showered, said Don Rees, a chief deputy district attorney in Multnomah County.
Goulet faced additional charges, including attempted murder, after he allegedly fired a gun at the woman's boyfriend. The two had fought after Goulet was spotted outside the woman's condo, but a jury acquitted him of those charges, Rees said.
During the trial, Goulet admitted that he liked to use his cellphone to record unsuspecting women undressing, according to the Oregonian newspaper. Prosecutors alleged he had peeped at women "hundreds of times" without getting caught.
Goulet was given three years' probation, Rees said, but spent time in jail after his probation was revoked.
As law enforcement officials Wednesday released new details of the unprecedented police killings, residents struggled to come to terms with what they said was the latest in a spate of high-profile acts of violence.