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SANTA CRUZ -- The gunman who killed two plainclothes Santa Cruz police detectives in cold blood grabbed their guns and took their car, launching a chase that forced three school lockdowns and a nearby shootout with officers that ended his life, authorities revealed Wednesday.

As the city mourned his victims, the blood of 35-year-old Jeremy Peter Goulet -- a trained military police officer who wore body armor and used two of the three guns he possessed to fire at bystanders and firefighters on Tuesday -- still stained a wall where a barrage of gunfire had erupted.

The day after, heartbreaking portraits emerged about the two longtime, dedicated officers slain in the line of duty -- the first ever in the city's history.

In contrast, an even darker, disturbing picture of Goulet rounded into shape, showing a troubling man who set off a series of small alarms but never quite triggered the peals of warning bells that in retrospect seemed needed. Those who knew Goulet described him as "despondent, distraught and destructive." He had been to jail for sex and weapons charges and had vowed to never go back.

"There's no doubt in anybody's mind that those officers stopped an imminent threat to the community and neutralized it," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak, whose agency is investigating the case.

On Wednesday, for the first time in the Santa Cruz Police Department's 150-year history, instead of patrolling the streets, officers took the time to grieve as sheriff deputies and the California Highway Patrol handled their duties.

"Our community is safe. We have as many officers covering today as yesterday," police Chief Kevin Vogel said.

During a somber news conference outside the Santa Cruz Police Department, which was shrouded in flowers, law enforcement leaders wore black bands on their badges to honor Detective Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker, 51, and Detective Elizabeth Butler, 38.

"It's been devastating. We've never experienced anything like this," said Vogel, who paused several times as he spoke of his former partner, mentor and friend. "Butch was my most skilled investigator."

Even before his death, Baker had left a legacy. Not only was he one of the most veteran and respected officers in town, Baker, a 28-year member of the force who was nearing retirement, also passed on the love of policing to his son, Adam. The young man was just out of Harbor High School when he started serving as community service officer, a position he still holds.

Baker -- who also left behind a wife and two daughters -- was a Santa Cruz fixture, a prankster, a character, a friend and a tenacious investigator. The kind of affable neighborhood cop people just wanted to strike up a conversation with.

Even as they recalled his boundless humor, Santa Cruz residents and colleagues were ripped with grief Wednesday as they struggled to comprehend his sudden death.

"To me, he was just like an everyday guy who wanted to do good things for the community," said his longtime friend, Michael Bethke. "He was more of a social worker than anything else. It just so happens he carried a gun."

Baker grew up in Saratoga and attended Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose.

"I want to have this community understand what an incredible life and dedication he provided for us citizens," Bethke said. "He did it in a kind of a quirky way."

In her 10 years on the force, Butler had worked as a patrol officer, hostage negotiator, downtown foot and bike officer and an agent assigned to the county drug task force. She once described her job as a mixed bag of public relations and fighting crime, saying almost every day she would confront homeless people, shoplifters, drunks, drug deals, panhandling and tourists asking how to get to the beach or where to get the best burger in town.

Butler, a mother of two young boys, had a knack for investigating sexual assaults, Vogel said.

That was what brought the two seasoned officers to Goulet's North Branciforte Avenue home Tuesday afternoon.

Goulet, a barista who recently moved to Santa Cruz, was accused of breaking into a female co-worker's home just a few doors away Friday night and again on Tuesday.

Because Goulet was accused of misdemeanor sexual assault, detectives arrived at Goulet's home on the same block -- just doors away from hundreds of children at Midtown Montessori preschool and Branciforte Small Schools.

Officers knew of his criminal history, but they didn't know he was "distraught with intentions of potentially harming people," Wowak said.

According to Wowak, Goulet shot both detectives on the doorstep of his home about 3 p.m.

"I've known (Butch) for 28 years, and he's done this thousands of times," Wowak said. "There should be no suspicion or second-guessing as to how they wound up where they were."

After the shooting, Goulet stole their guns and drove Baker's car about a block down the street and parked, Wowak said. By that time, law enforcement from around the county were descending on the area, responding to the officers-down call.

At least two law enforcement teams saw Goulet in the tense minutes that followed. Goulet moved from the back of his home on Branciforte to Doyle Street, Wowak said.

When deputies and police spotted Goulet, he was pinned against a garage door. Goulet opened fire on everyone. Police returned fire, killing the suspect.

Earlier that day, Goulet foreshadowed what was to to come. He had texted his twin brother Tuesday, saying, "I'm in big trouble, I love you," said his father, Ronald Goulet. "Jeff texted back and Jeremy wouldn't answer, and next thing we know he was shot and killed."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.