Illustration by Caetano Santos.
Illustration by Caetano Santos.

Early Thursday morning, 200 vehicles from various Santa Cruz County law enforcement agencies departed on the 33-mile journey across Highway 17 to San Jose. There they joined a crowd of thousands to grieve for the loss of two fellow officers. The police department had to go to San Jose because Santa Cruz couldn’t accommodate all the mourners — there just wasn’t a venue in town with enough seats.

For 150 years the city of Santa Cruz has never had to consider the funeral arrangement for officers killed in the line of duty. For 150 years the city of Santa Cruz has never had that truly dark day.

It arrived on Feb. 26, when detective Elizabeth Butler and Sgt. Loran “Butch” Baker were ambushed and murdered during a routine investigation. Their assailant, Jeremy Goulet, shot officers Butler and Baker to death with a handgun — one of three firearms later found registered in his name.

City on a Hill Press staff would like to take this opportunity to share our sorrow over this incredible loss. Santa Cruz police officers protect our city and our university every day. As recently as two weeks ago, officer Butler was assisting in the investigation of an alleged sexual assault on campus. We want to thank SCPD for always being there for students and residents of the city, especially in a week fraught with so much fear and uncertainty. We also want to extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of Butler and Baker. This is the ultimate nightmare for families of law enforcement officers — we cannot imagine your anguish.

We also want to express our outrage and astonishment that a clearly dangerous individual like Goulet had no trouble legally purchasing firearms in California.

While serving in the Army in Hawaii, Goulet was accused of rape on two separate occasions in 2006. Given the military’s notoriously negligent attitude toward sexual assault in the ranks, it’s not altogether surprising that the charges against Goulet were eventually dropped. It is however astonishing that Goulet received an other than honorable discharge in light of his alleged crimes. Had he been given a dishonorable discharge, Goulet would have been prohibited from purchasing firearms in the United States and would be registered on an FBI database.

Authorities were presented with a second chance to disarm this violent man in 2008, when Goulet was charged with four felonies — including attempted murder — after peeping on a woman in her home in Oregon and fighting with her boyfriend. Instead he served two consecutive years for separate misdemeanors after resisting terms that would have given him probation. If either of his misdemeanors had carried sentences of more than a year, Goulet would have been denied ownership of a gun under federal law.

It’s also ludicrous that Goulet’s history did not raise red flags when he was arrested in Berkeley in 2012 for peeping on a woman in her home. The court allowed him to take a plea deal that put him in jail for 20 days and receive three years of probation — a hollow punishment for a man who once chose prison over probation to show his contempt for the justice system.

Just weeks ago California legislators proposed new legislation to restrict gun ownership — including background checks for buying ammunition and tighter firearm lending laws — boasting they would make California the national leader in gun control. If politicos in the Capitol really want to make good on their promise, they should pass a bill forcing gun owners to purchase liability insurance. This is not a foolish fantasy — where state and federal law fall short, insurance companies could actually close the loopholes. If a statute like this was on the books, Goulet would have likely lost insurance coverage after his Oregon convictions. Without insurance, it would have been nearly impossible for him to legally purchase a firearm in California.

This is the first time CHP has ever had to write an editorial to honor fallen officers. Let it be the last.