Thousands Honor Slain Officers At Tacoma Dome Memorial
A procession of 2,000 cars followed the flag-draped caskets of four slain police officers to a memorial service Tuesday as thousands of mourners, mostly members of law enforcement from across the country, lined the streets.

At the memorial inside the Tacoma Dome, the four officers were remembered by loved ones left behind -- as heroes who will never be forgotten.

"He was a leader that was dedicated to learning tactics," said Tukwila Assistant Chief Mike Villa, who worked with Sgt. Mark Reninger. "He pushed himself to excellence, but also pushing the team to achieve at the highest level and be successful in every mission. He had a natural abililty for tactics, teamwork and making split-second, good decisions in the most stressful situations."

Officer Ronald Owen's sister Ronda LeFrancois recalled with fondness the days of growing up with her younger brother.

"Growing up, Ronnie always wanted to go into law enforcement, following in my dad's footsteps. They were like two peas in a pod. I know they are together in heaven."

"We believe things happen for a reason," said officer Tina Griswold's friend and city of Lakewood employee Pamela Battersby. "In Ecclesiastes 3:11 it says, 'He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they can not fathom what God has done from beginning to end.' We don't know why this terrible thing has happened. But it's a time that's brought us all together. Continue this closeness. Look into your hearts to see what you can do to be a better person, mother, father, child, husband, wife or friend. Please don't let the memory of these four officers die here."

In one of the more emotionally touching moments, the three children of Officer Greg Richards paid tribute to their father in a written eulogy read by all three.

"He taught us to use the importance of having good friends," said daughter Jami-Mae Richards, "and of being one, especially to his fellow officers. My dad knew how to spot good people and how to value them always."

"We were always Number One, even when he became a policemen with Kent. His friends said that he was a family man first, a cop second," said Richards' oldest son, Austin.

Austin Richards also told the thousands in attendance at the memorial that his father never let the stresses of being a police officer affect him at home with his family.

"It didn't change him either," Austin said. "He didn't become more hardened or angry, just thankful. Our little brother says he didn't even hate the people he had to arrest. I guess he didn't see the point of anger. It was always more important for my dad to laugh, which he did a lot."

Lori Lightfoot, a police detective from Fresno, Calif., was among officers who traveled from as far away as New York, Chicago and Canada to remember Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold, and Greg Richards.

Lightfoot and Sheila Chandler, also a Fresno detective, said the deaths of the four Lakewood officers brought back memories of four Oakland police officers killed during a traffic stop and a shootout in March.

"It's just disbelief," Lightfoot said. "It's unbelievable that it could happen again."

The Lakewood officers were killed Nov. 29 before the start of their shift. Authorities say Maurice Clemmons singled them out and spared employees and other customers at the coffee shop in Parkland, a Tacoma suburb about 35 miles south of Seattle.

Clemmons was shot to death last week by a Seattle police officer after a two-day manhunt. Prosecutors said he received help from family and friends, and seven people have been arrested.

Several candlelight vigils have been held for the officers since the shooting, but Tuesday's memorial service and procession is believed to be the largest in state history.

Thousands of people lined the streets around the Tacoma Dome, where 20,000 people were expected to attend the service.

The officers' family and friends served as pallbearers, carrying the coffins inside.

In addition to eulogies from family, friends and public officials, mourners will watch a video tribute to the officers.

Floral arrangements lined the stage, as well as two motorcycles, a drum set and a NASCAR race car.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who also spoke at the service, has directed that flags at all state facilities be lowered to half-staff Tuesday.

The memorial service was delayed more than an hour because of the large law enforcement procession. Roads surrounding the venue and along the route were shut down for several hours.

Additional space for the public to view telecasts of the service was made available at the University of Washington Tacoma, Pacific Lutheran University and the Christian Faith Center in Federal Way.