TACOMA, Wash. – Tacoma police officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez was shot and killed Wednesday a few blocks north of Fawcett Elementary School while handling a domestic violence call. Thursday, the flag outside the school was lowered to half-staff while inside, second-graders were writing letters of appreciation to Guetierrez’ peers at the department.
The News Tribune relayed some of the love being spread to the peace officers mourning the loss of their friend and colleague.
Slade Weisenberger, 8, said his letter told officers, “How they help out a lot, and that we’re appreciative of them.”
“Thank you for sacrificing your lives,” Slade wrote. “When you are around, we feel safe.” He concluded, “You rock.”
The student’s teacher, Samantha Guilford and two other instructors, came up with the idea. “We just wanted to do something to help support our kids as well as our community,” she said. “We are a tight knit community especially with the police station on 56th.”
Kids arrived at school Thursday with varying levels of knowledge about Wednesday’s incident, she said. “They were asking questions — a lot of them,” Guilford said. “Some of them knew a lot of detail and some of them knew very little.”
The teachers assured students they were safe, and the episode had ended. “They seemed to be in good spirits,” Guilford said. “They didn’t seem to be afraid.”
Josiah Walker, 7, thanked the officers for investigating crimes and catching crooks. “You lock up criminals,” he wrote them. “I feel sad,” Josiah said as he paused from the letter. But then he added, “I’m happy for their protection.”
Guilford said she is hesitant to bring up tragedies with her students as she is unaware of what they’ve been told by parents. But she felt the incident occurring a few blocks from school was different, and felt compelled to action.
“It’s a tough line to walk, but I think it is important for them to know because it did happen in our community,” Guilford said.
The teachers planned to deliver the letters to the police department in person.
Jenna Ly, 7, said she likes to see police officers driving around town because she figures they’re on their way to catch criminals. “Stay safe,” she wrote to the officers. “I feel safe when you are around.”
We all do Jenna. We are simply sad that Officer Gutierrez will not be with us any longer!