On a beautifully warm day when most Santa Cruz residents would normally go to the beach boardwalk, the popular downtown area or the ocean front, hundreds poured to the scene of the tragic shootings Tuesday evening that left two police officers and a suspect dead.
At the corner of Branciforte Avenue and Doyle Street, only a few hundred feet from where suspect Jeremy Peter Goulet was shot and killed, a memorial of flowers, candles and sympathy messages seemed to become the altar upon which shocked residents came to pray and make sense of the tragedy.
David Bolam, who lives on Branciforte Avenue near the location of the fatal shooting of Santa Cruz police detectives Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker and Elizabeth Butler, said although he was not home when the tragedy occurred, he was still shaken.
"It's a lazy cliche to paint any community of 60,000 people with one short description," he responded when asked what was happening to the "sleepy hippie" town of Santa Cruz. "This can happen anywhere. I don't think it's any more shocking here than it would be in West Oakland."
Jane Sooby, a Buddhist, said she had come to the shooting scene to meditate for peace. She said she was hoping to organize a group of people who could respond with "being present with what each moment brings" to violent crime to bring peace to crime locations. "We need to help maintain poise and compassion whatever the circumstance."
Asked about the recent crime spree in Santa Cruz that has seen a rape at UC-Santa Cruz, a murder downtown, an armed robbery and a UC-SC student shot in the head during a robbery, Sooby said she didnt' think the violent acts were anything new.
"There seems to be a continual level of violence that I just don't understand," lamented the 13-year Santa Cruz resident, who described herself as an organic farming advocate.
For Bredette Dyer and 7-year-old son Orion Hollin Dyer, returning to Doyle Street and Branciforte Avenue was a way to begin to cope with the trauma.
The 33-year-old woman said she was coming out of Whole Foods Market, on Soquel Avenue, west of Doyle Street where Goulet was gunned down, when she heard multiple shots fired. "We both got down to the ground by a tree for safety. There were about 15-20 shots," she said, her voice breaking. "We're still shaking. It was very scary for both of us."
What followed is now a nightmare she's reliving almost every minute. Doyle Street was completely shut off by police. Her car became part of the crime scene. Police took down her information for a future interview. She remained at the scene until about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening.
"It's awful ... It's the first time Santa Cruz police have died," she said. "It's a horrible, horrible thing. It's been a very intense situation as a mother to have a child present for this."
"I'm scared, I'm still scared," said Orion, tightly holding his mother's hand.
Ray Newkirk, the owner of Green Station on Ocean Street in Santa Cruz, said it was time to stop the violence. "I just hope it ends. There's been too much craziness going on around here lately. It's all been very horrible, from the woman who got killed on Broadway last year to the people at the 7-Eleven the year before, the woman at Westcliff, the guy at the Red Room ... It doesn't feel like our town anymore."
He continued: "Our peaceful little home is no longer that ... It's all really sad and I hope it stops."
For community advocate Eva Esquibel, 44, the killing of the officers was a reminder of the dangerous job daughter Brooke Esquibel performs as a member of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Bureau.
"I don't even have words to say how I really feel about it," she said. "This makes me worry about my daughter's safety, even though she works inside the jail. I can't believe the things that are happening now days. I'm pretty disgusted, personally, to tell you the truth. It just really saddens me the crazy things that are going on now days."
Esquibel said when a woman was stabbed to death in 2012, she began carrying pepper spray. "A guy came up behind her and stabbed her in broad daylight. She had gotten back from the salon ... ever since that ... there was another shooting of a youth by the boardwalk last year."
Another memorial allowing the community to grieve was set up outside the Santa Cruz Police Department on Center Street.
Heavy-hearted and shocked residents left dozens of candles, cards and drawings made by children, flowers and poems and other moving messages of sympathy in honor of the fallen officers.
The department's flags flew at half-staff, and outside its glass doors was a sign that said it was closed for the day. Earlier, media from around the region had gathered for a press conference where authorities revealed that Baker and Butler had been killed while conducting a follow-up investigation related to the sexual assault of a woman.
Suspect Jeremy Goulet, who lived in a bungalow at 822 Branciforte Drive, became involved in an altercation with the detectives who were shot and killed by him. He then stole Baker's detective car and fled the scene.
Santa Cruz County District Attorney Bob Lee was on the verge of tears today inside his second-floor office at the Santa Cruz County Superior Court Building on Ocean Street.
"Words just can't express how deep our sorrow is for Sgt. Baker's family and Detective Butler. I worked with Butch for 25 years on the most serious cases in our community," he said, his voice breaking, looking down to hide tears. "He really was our go-to guy at the Santa Cruz Police Department."
He added: "Detective Butler had worked on sexual assault cases and she was extremely passionate and very diligent, especially in trying to help those victims of those terrible crimes. It's obviously during one of these sexual assault cases that she ultimately lost her life. She was protecting the public."