Slain Tacoma policeman 'model' veteran officer

Officer Reginald J. "Jake" Gutierrez was shot to death Wednesday night. He had been with the department for 17 years. (Photo: Tacoma Police Department)

TACOMA, Wash. (KOMO) - A veteran police officer who died after responding to a domestic disturbance in Tacoma on Wednesday was a veteran of the Tacoma department and a model policeman, officials said.

The officer was identified Thursday as Reginald J. Gutierrez. He died after being shot several times.

The suspected gunman, 38, was shot and killed by authorities about 3:30 a.m. Thursday after barricading himself inside a home with a rifle. He refused to come out despite the efforts of police negotiators.

Pierce County Deputy Ed Troyer said the suspect used two children as human shields. The kids, a 6-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl, were taken from the scene unharmed and evaluated at the hospital.

A Pierce County SWAT deputy shot the suspect while one of the children was still with him, Troyer said. The suspect had multiple weapons in the house.

The suspect's name is Bruce Johnson, Loretta Cool, spokeswoman for the Tacoma Police Department, said.

He worked at Sam & Terry's Barbershop in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood. Johnson went by the nickname "Zeus."

A colleague said Thursday that Johnson was opinionated and said he'd never be a "victim."

Police Chief Donald Ramsdell said the suspect has little in the way of a criminal history. But he said the gunman might have had mental health issues.

Gutierrez, 45, was pronounced dead at the hospital late Wednesday night, Cool said.

"He's a model police officer," an emotional Ramsdell said at a Thursday news conference. "He was dedicated to the profession. He demonstrated that every day he came to work."

Gutierrez, known as "Jake," had worked for Tacoma Police Department for 17 years. He had been a patrol officer his entire career and was experienced at handling domestic violence incidents, Ramsdell said.

The incident began with a report about a dog. A woman told an animal-control officer investigating the dog complaint that she had been locked out of her house.

Gutierrez and his partner were called to the house, in the 400 block of East 52nd Street on Tacoma's east side, about 4 p.m.

Police said Johnson and his wife had some sort of argument. Then he locked his wife out of the house.

Ramsdell said Gutierrez and his female partner entered the house and talked to the gunman and believed that he was going to surrender.

"Obviously, he didn't," Ramsdell said.

Johnson was upstairs. Gutierrez climbed the stairs and turned toward a hallway, Ramsdell said. Then the gunman opened up.

Gutierrez never returned fire. His partner fired several times and retreated, taking the gunman's wife with her.

It's not clear whether the officer wounded the gunman.

When police arrived, they offered to help the woman - and that's when Johnson barricaded himself in the home and fired multiple shots. Officers also formed a team and went inside the house to rescue Gutierrez.

Police made repeated attempts to talk him into surrendering, but he refused. Police also sent in the bomb unit's robot to see how many people were in the house, Ramsdell said.

Gutierrez was rushed to Tacoma General Hospital, where he died. He lived in Kitsap County.

He was a father and was engaged, Ramsdell said. Police say cards may be sent to: Gutierrez Family,? Chief Donald Ramsdell, Tacoma Police Department, 3701 S. Pine St., Tacoma, WA 98409.

A memorial fund has been established for the Gutierrez family. You can access the fund here.

"Keep your heart and prayers in for Officer Gutierrez," the chief said.

Officers from Tacoma, Fife, the State Patrol, and the Pierce County Sheriff's Office surrounded the neighborhood and the home, while a law enforcement helicopter shined a spotlight overhead.

Flashbangs and gunfire were heard as police attempted to force their way inside the home.

Kristi Croskey, who rents the home to Johnson and his wife, was inside the home at the time and barricaded herself in the bathroom before she was able to escape.

She said police showed up because Johnson was fighting with his wife and refused to let her back inside.

"They said they just wanted to talk to him and then gunfire started, they didn't start it," Croskey said.

A display of Honor & Respect at our #Parkland #Spanaway precinct for TPD Officer Jake Gutierrez.— Pierce Co Sheriff (@PierceSheriff) December 1, 2016

Dozens of law enforcement officers, some in uniform and others in plain-clothes, lined up outside of Tacoma General Hospital to pay their respects to the fallen officer.

Gutierrez's body was draped with an American flag and loaded into an ambulance. A procession of police vehicles then escorted the ambulance to the Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office.

In a statement, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he and his wife, Trudi, were sending their thoughts and prayers to the family and loved ones of the officer.

"All of Washington grieves with Tacoma, which tonight lost one of their finest. Our hearts are with the men and women of the Tacoma Police Department, their families, and their brothers and sisters in law enforcement across Washington," Inslee said.

The shooting comes a day after the seven-year anniversary of a Lakewood shooting at a Forza Coffee shop that left four officers dead.

On Thursday morning, police were in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred. Officers were collecting evidence and interviewing stunned neighbors.

The FBI and the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office are investigating the shooting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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