Slain police officer memorialized with Tacoma street name
The street isn’t new but as of Wednesday its name is.
Reginald Gutierrez Lane was dedicated in a ceremony Wednesday at Stewart Heights Park on Tacoma’s east side.
“Jake” Gutierrez, as he was known to family and friends, was fatally shot Nov. 30 several blocks north of the park while responding to a domestic disturbance. The 17-year veteran of the Tacoma Police Department was 45.
Gutierrez’s family’s love and the community’s respect remained undiminished half a year after his death.
“He’s an amazing person in life and in death, and death has not taken away any of that from us,” his sister, Antoinette Gutierrez said Wednesday.
Still, she sometimes feels like she’s living in an alternate reality.
“I asked my husband yesterday, ‘Is this really happening?’ ” she said after the ceremony. “It’s something his daughters and I are trying to figure out a way to live through and the community has been amazing.”
Gutierrez’s daughter, Victoria, 17, called the dedication proof that her father followed his dream of being a public servant.
“It shows everything that my dad worked for,” Victoria said. “He did his job.”
Behind her, a new green street sign displayed her father’s name in large white letters. Two metal vases attached to the street pole held bouquets of flowers.
“It’s nice that the community is here for us and giving us a lot of love and support,” Victoria said.
Whenever her family visits the area, “We’re always treated with respect and compassion and that’s a blessing,” Antoinette Gutierrez said.
A PROTECTIVE BROTHER
Antoinette Gutierrez said her family grew up in a tough neighborhood.
That gave her brother experience with many types of people but also gave him compassion.
“He could empathize with a lot of the situations these people were in,” she said.
With his family, he liked to laugh and have others laugh with him.
“He liked to joke, he loved to laugh,” Antoinette said. “He always put us in embarrassing situations.”
Gutierrez once persuaded her to jump off the family shed.
“I was convinced I was going to die,” she recalled. “He would tell me, ‘If our other brothers can do it you can do it too.’ ”
Gutierrez had been protective of his family all his life.
“He was just crazy, fun loving, very protective,” she said. “He wouldn’t allow boys to come around me.”
On Wednesday, Antoinette displayed new tattoos she had inked on her right arm.
One shows Gutierrez’s badge and number: 44.
Another has a quote that he had tattooed in Latin. Hers is in English: “It is better to die an honorable death than to live a dishonorable life.”
“My brother, he embodied that quote,” Antoinette said. “He lived it. He’s an amazing human being. I have a hard time speaking about him in the past tense. Because for me, he lives on. His children are his legacy.”
A COMMUNITY HONORS
“Long after all of us are gone, people will drive by Jake’s name,” said Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool. Cool served as master of ceremonies for the event which drew over 100 people. She was also a friend of Gutierrez’s.
“He loved helping people and having people around him, making them happy and always leaving them smiling,” she said.
And that’s why there was no better place in Tacoma to honor him, she said.
“We’re in a park where children play,” Cool said as kids splashed in the park’s nearby pool. “We are at a police station where people come for help. And we are in a community that chooses to always remember the police officer Reginald ‘Jake’ Gutierrez, who was here to help. Even on his last day.”
Chief of Police Don Ramsdell called Gutierrez a role model and mentor. He was the first to arrive on scene whether it was to help a citizen or a fellow officer.
The street serves as a way of remembering Gutierrez and his service to the community, Ramsdell said.
“The sign and street entrance will forever serve as a reminder that Jake will never be forgotten as the result of his sacrifice or the positive impacts he made on the lives of so many people,” Ramsdell said.