On a beautiful warm day when Santa Cruz residents might be found at the beach boardwalk, downtown area or ocean front, hundreds poured to the scene of the tragic Tuesday night shootings that left two police officers and a suspect dead.
At the corner of Branciforte Avenue and Doyle Street, only a few hundred feet from where suspect Jeremy Peter Goulet was shot and killed, a memorial of flowers, candles and sympathy messages seemed to become an altar upon which shocked residents come to pray, and try to make sense of the tragedy.
Though not at his Branciforte Avenue home, near where the fatal shooting of Santa Cruz police detectives Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker and Elizabeth Butler occurred, David Bolam said he was still shaken.
"It's a lazy cliche to paint any community of 60,000 people with one short description," he said when asked what was happening to the "sleepy hippie" town of Santa Cruz. "This can happen anywhere. I don't think it's any more shocking here than it would be in West Oakland."
The shooting scene for Jane Sooby, a Buddhist, was a place to meditate for peace, where she hopes people can respond with "being present with what each moment brings" to violent crimes. "We need to help maintain poise and compassion whatever the circumstance," she said.
A spate of violence in the area that includes a rape at UC-Santa Cruz, a downtown murder, an armed robbery and a UC-SC student shot in the head during a robbery; those aren't anything new, the 13-year Santa Cruz residentsaid.
"There seems to be a continual level of violence that I just don't understand," said Sooby, a self-described organic farming advocate.
Bredette Dyer, 33, and her 7-year-old son Orion Hollin Dyer, are just beginning to learn to cope with the trauma.
She heard multiple shots fired as they exited the Soquel Avenue Whole Foods Market that is west of Doyle Street, where the suspect was gunned down.
"We both got down to the ground by a tree for safety. There were about 15 to 20 shots," she said, her voice breaking. "We're still shaking. It was very scary for both of us."
Her car became part of the crime scene, Doyle Street was completely shut off by police, and police may want to interview her in the future; it's a nightmare she relives almost every minute.
She remained at the scene until about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"It's awful ... It's the first time Santa Cruz police have died," she said. "It's a horrible, horrible thing. It's been a very intense situation as a mother to have a child present for this."
"I'm scared, I'm still scared," said Orion, tightly holding his mother's hand.
Residents and business owners are calling for a stop to the violence.
"I just hope it ends. There's been too much craziness going on around here lately. It's all been very horrible, from the woman who got killed on Broadway last year to the people at the 7-Eleven the year before, the woman at Westcliff, the guy at the Red Room ... It doesn't feel like our town anymore," said Ray Newkirk, the owner of Green Station on Ocean Street in Santa Cruz.
"Our peaceful little home is no longer that ... It's all really sad and I hope it stops."
For community advocate Eva Esquibel, 44, the killing of the officers was a reminder of the dangerous job daughter Brooke Esquibel performs as a member of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Bureau.
"I don't even have words to say how I really feel about it," she said. "This makes me worry about my daughter's safety, even though she works inside the jail. I can't believe the things that are happening now days. I'm pretty disgusted, personally, to tell you the truth. It just really saddens me the crazy things that are going on now days."
When a woman was stabbed to death in 2012 Esquibel said she began carrying pepper spray. "A guy came up behind her and stabbed her in broad daylight. She had gotten back from the salon ... ever since that ... there was another shooting of a youth by the boardwalk last year."
Another memorial for the community to grieve was set up outside the Santa Cruz Police Department on Center Street.
Heavy-hearted and shocked residents left dozens of candles, cards and drawings made by children, flowers and poems and other moving messages of sympathy in honor of the fallen officers.
Flags flew at half-staff over the department, a sign on the glass doors announced the department was closed for the day.
Baker and Butler, the downed officers, were killed while conducting a follow-up investigation related to the sexual assault of a woman, authorities said.
Suspect Jeremy Goulet, who lived in a bungalow at 822 Branciforte Drive, became involved in an altercation with the detectives who were shot and killed by him. Goulet stole Baker's detective car and fled the scene.
Santa Cruz County District Attorney Bob Lee was on the verge of tears today inside his second-floor office at the Santa Cruz County Superior Court Building on Ocean Street.
"Words just can't express how deep our sorrow is for Sgt. Baker's family and Detective Butler. I worked with Butch for 25 years on the most serious cases in our community," he said, his voice breaking. "He really was our go-to guy at the Santa Cruz Police Department."
"Detective Butler had worked on sexual assault cases and she was extremely passionate and very diligent, especially in trying to help those victims of those terrible crimes. It's obviously during one of these sexual assault cases that she ultimately lost her life. She was protecting the public."