Cars came to the Lakewood Police Department in short bursts Wednesday as people dropped off canned goods and nonperishable food.
They were contributing to the fourth annual Fallen Officers Food Drive, begun in honor of Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Tina Griswold, Gregory Richards and Ronald Owens.
Saturday marks the five-year anniversary of their deaths at the hand of Maurice Clemmons, who shot them as they gathered before their shifts in 2009 at a Parkland coffee shop.
On Wednesday, in a parking lot across from the Lakdwood police headquarters, crews from West Pierce County Fire and Rescue, Lakewood police and volunteers from the Emergency Food Network stood next to large trash cans on wheels.
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They swarmed cars as they pulled up, quick to unload bags of food headed for Pierce County’s central storage and distribution center for emergency food programs.
Dave Hall was one of the people dropping off food. He got out of his car to help unload his trunk and chat with volunteers.
The annual food drive is significant to Hall, who helped form the Lakewood Police Department in 2004. He retired as an assistant chief in 2006.
He helped hire the four fallen Lakewood officers. The emotions are still at the surface for Hall, who teared up immediately when asked about why he donates to the food drive.
“It’s a great way to remember,” he said. “They were four great cops.”
The food drive was established a year after the shootings as a way to honor the officers. It also provided an opportunity to turn the tragedy into something that benefits the community, Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar said.
“It’s helpful to have something positive to think about during this time of year,” he said. “It’s a very heartwarming thing for us to do.”
Five years after the killings the department and its officers are doing well, but it’s still difficult, Farrar said.
“We have moved forward, but you never really move on,” he said.
Former Lakewood Police Chief Larry Saunders was at the station Wednesday. He said he tries to make it to the food drive every year he’s in town.
“We have gone back to normal, but it’s a new normal,” he said. “We’re forever changed because of what happened.”
Since its inception, the food drive has helped raise more than $100,000 and 100,000 pounds of food for the Emergency Food Network, according to Farrar.
Organizers set a goal of raising $50,000 and 50,000 pounds of food through the drive each year. They’ve come close, but haven’t hit their target, Farrar said.
Regardless, the donations benefit the community and allow the healing to continue, he said.
“I think about those four every day,” he said. “Their pictures are right outside my office.”