Slain Wash. officers respected for careers, family life

By Jack Broom, Lynda V. Mapes, Bob Young and Susan Kelleher
Seattle Times

The four victims of Sunday morning's shooting were veteran officers who brought a range of talents to the fledgling Lakewood Police Department when it was created in 2004, according to Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar.

"This is a very difficult time for our families and our officers," he said. "Please keep our families and Lakewood Police in your prayers."

Clockwise, from top left: Sgt. Mark Renninger, Officer Ronald Owens, Officer Tina Griswold and Officer Gregory Richards
Clockwise, from top left: Sgt. Mark Renninger, Officer Ronald Owens, Officer Tina Griswold and Officer Gregory Richards

The slain officers "all have been outstanding professionals," he added.

Officer Tina Griswold

Tina Griswold, 40, joined the Lakewood Police Department in 2004 and earlier this year won its Lifesaving Award.

"She was likable and enjoyed life," said her former father-in-law, Carroll Kelley of Shelton, Mason County.

She and Kelley's son met when both were students at Shelton High School, Kelley said. Griswold became a police officer after they divorced, he said.

She is survived by her husband, a daughter, 21, and a son, 8, police and relatives said.

She previously worked as a police officer in Shelton for three years, public records show. She was an officer and SWAT team member for the Lacey Police Department from 1998 to 2004, according to Sgt. Scott Eastman, her former supervisor. The group was responsible for serving high-risk warrants and conducting high-risk entries, he said.

"Tina was an outstanding officer," Eastman said. "She was very assertive, and had no fear in dealing with high-risk situations and suspects that were larger than her. She had this presence about her that was in charge and you were going to do what she said. She had the verbal skills and the confidence to pull it off."

Griwold was avid about physical fitness, and lifted weights and ran regularly, Eastman said. She stood about 5 feet and weighed less than 100 pounds.

"She could do 30 to 40 pull-ups," Eastman said. "A lot of the guys were talking about that this morning. We'd always joke that she didn't have much to lift."

Griswold was one of the first members of Lacey's tactical team, and the first woman to hold the job, Eastman said.

"She was a very hard worker and just a fun person to work with," he said. "She spent most of her free time with family. ... That was her priority."

Although she left Shelton to join the Lacey department, she still lived in town and would run into her former colleagues.

"The young officers looked up to her," Eastman said. "And she was a great partner for the experienced officers. She knew what she was doing."

Lacey officers are still in shock over the news, he said, adding, "We're looking for an opportunity to honor her and her family."

Officer Gregory Richards

He was known as one of the sweet guys, the one everyone liked to work with.

Gregory Richards, 42, of Graham had eight years of law-enforcement experience, starting with work as a patrol officer in Kent.

He worked there from September 2001 until October 2004, before hiring on with the Lakewood Police Department.

The Kent department was going through layoffs because of budget cuts, and Richards sought a more secure situation for his family, said Lt. Lisa Price, public-information officer for the Kent department.

"He was a very well-respected and well-liked co-worker, and when he left we were sad to see him go," Price said. "People loved working alongside him. I firmly believe Greg would still be with Kent if we hadn't been going through layoffs.

"He was just a nice, cute, angelic guy."

He had a lighter side too. Richards was the drummer in an all-police officer rock band called Locked Down. The band played at social gatherings, including a recent police officers' motorcycle rally in Ocean Shores.

The killing was devastating news. "It was a complete shock to my system, it's a horrific crime and it hits close to home," Price said.

Richards is survived by his wife, Kelly, a daughter and two sons.

"Everyone is just here," said Melanie Burwell, a sister-in-law answering the door at Richards' home. "We are staying together."

Burwell said she last saw Richards at Thanksgiving. "It was wonderful," she said, fighting tears. "All he ever wanted was his family. He didn't want to do anything but be with them.

"If there were more people in this world like Greg, nothing like this would ever happen."

Sgt. Mark Renninger

A decorated veteran officer and popular law-enforcement instructor, Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, is survived by his wife and three children.

"Mark was a professional, dedicated police officer who made the ultimate sacrifice. More importantly, he was a loving and devoted father, husband and family member who will be missed by many," said Renninger's brother, Matt, on a statement published on the Web site of WFMZ-TV in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, where Renninger grew up.

He joined the Tukwila Police Department shortly after leaving military service in 1996. He was a patrol officer, a SWAT team member and was, for a time, president of the Tukwila police officers' guild.

"Mark was an outstanding police officer and a well-liked member of the department during his time with us," said a statement issued by the Tukwila Police Department.

He moved to the Lakewood department in 2004. According to the program for a state 2008 law-enforcement conference, Renninger was an instructor in SWAT courses and served as an instructor for courses in firearms, chemical munitions and patrol responsibilities.

On a Facebook tribute page set up by his relatives Sunday, more than 1,000 message of tribute were posted by early evening.

Among the postings was one from Rick Fisher, who said he coached Renninger's daughter in fastpitch softball two seasons ago. "Mark was a fun and compassionate man," Fisher wrote. "He was always willing to help me and the girls out when he could. He was a tremendous help."

Officer Ronald Owens

Friends describe Ronald Owens, 37, as a dedicated officer and devoted father. He was also an "ideal tenant," said Toni Strehlow, who managed a property Owens rented, a house with a white-picket fence near downtown Puyallup.

"When he rented from us, the first thing he did was replace walls and a patio door and he never charged us, never wanted a rent deduction. He just wanted to do for people," said Strehlow.

He was a good neighbor, too, said Charley Stokes who lived next door to him in Puyallup. "We'd talk over the back fence, have a beer once in a while."

Owens, who was divorced, was very proud of his daughter, he said.

Strehlow and Stokes said Owens was excited about going from his job as a State Patrol trooper to the Lakewood Police Department in 2004, saying Owens looked forward to more regular hours and better advancement opportunities.

Strehlow said she was speechless when she heard the news. "It's just wrong. He was truly an unforgettable man and a kind, kind person."

Owens went into police work because his father, who died in 2006, was a detective, according to a neighbor, Edie Wintermute.

Owens checked in on her husband after surgery, she said. "He was a good father and very caring guy."

Copyright 2009 Seattle Times

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