Nancy Searle was out early Thursday when she saw a Tacoma police officer on patrol.
“I stopped and waved ... and he cried,” she said, crying herself outside Tacoma Police headquarters on South Pine Street.
“I usually don’t cry,” the Tacoma woman explained.
She had just dropped off a box of doughnuts and some coffee to officers inside the building.
Searle was one of a steady stream of people leaving bouquets, plants, candles and letters underneath the large replica of an officer’s badge that is affixed to the building.
On Thursday, that badge had a black band across it, the universal sign of grief.
“It hits really close to home,” said David Boyce of Tacoma moments after leaving a bouquet. “Being the holidays, you wish you could do something. It’s a tough day. I can only imagine what they are going through.”
Rochelle Sems brought her 10-month-old son and 3-year-old daughter from West Seattle to pay their respects.
The toddler, Regan Krutenat, picked out a bouquet of white holiday flowers at a store, which Regan placed outside the station.
The family had planned to get their Christmas tree today.
“I thought we could stop what we were doing, come down here and say a little prayer for their family,” Sems said.
She told Regan the officer died doing his job, protecting people.
“I just said to her this morning that this man is very brave, and he’s in heaven now.”
One of Thursday’s mourners was Gov. Jay Inslee. After first meeting with personnel inside the building, he emerged from the front entrance with a bouquet.
Inslee placed the flowers with the others and then stood in silence for a few moments.
The governor spoke briefly with Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist but did not make any public comments.
“He just said his heart is with us here in Tacoma,” Lindquist said.
Kimberly Dills of Pacific told her toddler that they were bringing treats from Legendary Doughnuts to the station to make people happy, because they were sad.
It was 3-year-old Sophia Dills’ birthday. When they dropped off the doughnuts, Kimberly Dills said the woman at the front desk, “just looked like she had been crying.”
Near where the governor had left his flowers was a stuffed Scooby-Doo dog and a hand-written note.
“I am sorry your freind past away,” the note read in a child’s scrawl. “Frome Daniel”
A large hand-drawn heart filled the rest of the page.