ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Thursday briefings reveal additional information about shooting that killed two Santa Cruz police officers
The two Santa Cruz police detectives who interviewed suspect Jeremy Goulet spoke with him for about 10 minutes through his closed door before he opened fire, said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak during a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 28 at the Santa Cruz Police Department. The officers never set foot inside of his home.
During the dialogue, Goulet left his spot behind the door and appeared a moment later in a different location, ambushing Detective Sgt. Loran “Butch” Baker and detective Elizabeth Butler and killing them in seconds.
The officers had no chance to react, said Wowak.
“We now know the detectives had absolutely no chance to protect themselves or return fire,” he said, adding, “They barely had the opportunity to turn and run.”
The officers were investigating a misdemeanor offense and had no information that led them to believe Goulet was a danger to them, he said.
Goulet was fired early this week from his job at The Kind Grind cafe on East Cliff Drive after a female co-worker filed a complaint of sexual misconduct. Goulet had reportedly broken into her home and made sexual advances.
Baker and Butler went to Goulet’s house on Branciforte Drive to hear his side of the story on the sexual assault allegation, Wowak said.
Wowak announced at the press conference that Goulet, a former marine, had been arrested on rape charges in Hawaii and that he was also the suspect in a case of inappropriately touching a female juvenile. Goulet had multiple sex-related arrests and reportedly had a compulsion to secretly record women in their homes with his cell phone.
The Sheriff’s Office, which is conducting the investigation, has discovered that at his time of death, Goulet was in possession of his passport and a plane ticket to New Mexico. He was due to fly out this week.
“Now we’re trying to put the puzzle pieces together to determine what was happening in his life at that time and what his intentions were,” Wowak said.
During the initial assault on the police officers, one of the rounds that Goulet fired traveled to Stanford Avenue where it grazed a woman’s leg. She was not seriously wounded and the bullet was acquired as evidence.
After killing the officers, Goulet took their weapons and Baker’s keys, then stole the investigator’s car and left the area. This information was pieced together by witness accounts, Wowak said.
Neither Baker nor Butler was wearing body armor when they were shot, though armor would not have saved them, Wowak said. He refrained from providing details about their wounds out of respect for the officers’ families.
After leaving the area in the stolen car, Goulet drove down Doyle Street, which crosses Branciforte Avenue near his house, but it was blocked by a Santa Cruz fire truck. Fire personnel were busy attempting to render aid to the down officers. Goulet was diverted into an alleyway that connected to his home. He hid the vehicle and proceeded on foot wearing Baker’s bulletproof vest and carrying both the officers’ handguns as well as his own gun. He attempted to make his way back to his house through the alley but encountered officers responding to the murder scene. They pressured Goulet back onto Doyle Street and at that time a team of six officers from both the Sheriff’s Office and the SCPD contacted him. Goulet fired the first round and continued firing with two handguns. None of the officers were hit, though the fire truck and other vehicles in the area were.
During the briefing, personnel from the Sheriff’s Office, SCPD and the Santa Cruz Fire Department stood behind Wowak at podium. He paid special respects to the firefighters for their exceptional bravery during shooting.
When the second round of shooting began, firefighters rushed to cover innocent bystanders and ushered others out of the line of fire, potentially saving lives, he said.
After Goulet began shooting, four of the six officers—three SCPD officers and one Sheriff’s employee—were able to return fire and killed Goulet. Those officers have been placed on paid, non-disciplinary leave, which is standard procedure for law enforcement. Those officers are receiving grief counseling.
Mayor Hilary Bryant thanked the community for attending a vigil at the Louden Nelson Community Center on Wednesday night, Feb. 27. Hundreds of people attended throughout the afternoon and into the evening. SCPD officers arrived at about 7:30 p.m. to mourn their loss with the rest of the community.
The Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol continued to fill in for SCPD on Thursday.
Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel said the SCPD will return to duty Friday morning, March 1 at 7 a.m.
The SCPD took the time off to ensure the officers’ mental health is in good condition.
“We ask that when you see our officers out on the street tomorrow, please provide them with all of the love and support that you can,” Vogel said. “It’s been a tough two days. We’ve got a rough week ahead of us.”
Former police department spokesman Zach Friend, who is now a County Supervisor, said the SCPD is incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support from the community and continue to struggle with their loss.
“Things are not getting easier for any of us that are associated with this department,” Friend said. “It’s going to take a long time for us to heal; a long time for us to fully get back to a sense of normalcy. We’re dealing with a lot of different factors while we’re going through this: emotional, operational, and things that we don’t even know. There’s no playbook for this. We don’t know what the next steps are.”
A scholarship fund has been set up for the families of the fallen officers on the City of Santa Cruz website, cityofsantacruz.com.
Photos by Joel Hersch.