APTOS -- Losing a fellow officer in the line of duty brings a deep, indescribable pain, according to Sarah Jackson of the California Highway Patrol.
All CHP officers begin their careers at the same Sacramento academy, wear the same uniform and perform the same duties whether they work in Bakersfield or Aptos.
When an officer is killed during a traffic stop or accident, the sadness is the same as the death of a brother or sister.
The CHP has lost 223 officers since 1929, including three in Santa Cruz County, Jackson said.
"Just because one of your classmates was shipped to Barstow or Redding doesn't lessen the bond," said Jackson, who has worked for the state law enforcement agency for five years. "Being in a different uniform doesn't lessen that bond either. It's one of the most difficult situations to find yourself in."
Law enforcement agencies across Santa Cruz County, as well as the community and family members, are mourning the deaths of Santa Cruz police Detective Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler.
The officers were killed Tuesday by Jeremy Goulet, a former military member with a long history of criminal offenses that spanned from Southern California to Hawaii to the Bay Area and Oregon before he arrived in Santa Cruz last fall.
Baker and Butler were interviewing Goulet, 35, at his North Branciforte Avenue home for an alleged break-in and sexual assault when he ambushed them on the doorstep
THE DARKEST DAYS
The shootings are expected to haunt the Santa Cruz Police Department for years.
Healing will take some time, and a certain amount of grief will linger long after the memorial services and public attention subsides.
Santa Cruz police officers returned to the streets Friday, less than 72 hours after the killings.
All were offered grief counseling.
"In some respects, you don't even know how to react because police officers are conditioned to not really express emotions," said department spokesman Zach Friend. "It's almost impossible to describe how difficult it is to move through that."
Colleagues of the fallen officers say there will be an appearance of normalcy while tears are still shed behind closed doors.
"It's hard," said Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano. "We may never heal completely. But we'll do the best we can to get through this."
Solano, whose friendship with Baker dated from their rookie days on the Santa Cruz force in the 1980s, said the killings of Baker and Butler are like a "terrible dream," but honoring their lives and respecting them as "incredible individuals" helps ease their loss.
Putting on the uniform and getting back into the patrol car after such a tragedy are things officers do without hesitation.
Their duty, after all, is protecting the public.
"You still have to hold it together and provide a service to the public," said Jackson of the CHP. "You can't swerve from that. Your heart has to be in the game."
Terry Medina, Watsonville's former police chief who retired in 2009 after a 40-year career in law enforcement, said officers are always on alert in a job that comes with inherent risk.
Officers' sense of vigilance probably would be "even more heightened" by the shootings, he said.
"You want to be approachable, a problem-solver," Medina said. "You want to be alert, but you don't want to seem like you're wound too tight."
Retired Vallejo Police Chief Robert Nichelini, who experienced 17 line-of-duty deaths during his 42-year career in Vallejo and Oakland, said he found each death more difficult. Vallejo officers were gunned down by suspects in April 2000 and in November 2011.
Grief counselors are always on hand to "make sure there is no one working that shouldn't be working. You can have other trauma caused by people upset over the incident."
Although grief from the department and community sparks a strong desire to help, police have to make sure families of the victims aren't overwhelmed.
Follow Sentinel reporter Shanna McCord on Twitter at Twitter.com/scnewsmom. Sentinel staff writers J.M. Brown and Donna Jones contributed to this report.
Donations can be made online
The City of Santa Cruz, with the Police Officers Association, has updated its website to make it possible for online contributions to a fund for the families of slain officers, Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker and Elizabeth Butler.
Paypal: Go to http://www.cityofsantacruz.com. to use PayPal or any bank account.
Bay Federal Credit Union: Indicate donation for Santa Cruz Police Officers Foundation at any branch.
Wells Fargo: Use account No. 999 245 1154 for the Baker/Butler Scholarship Fund at any branch.
Mail: 809 Center St., Room 101, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. Make checks payable to the 'Baker/Butler Scholarship Fund.'
Credit card by phone: Call 831-420-5070 during normal business hours (no charge to donor).