Over 500 police and local firefighters joined with family and friends at the Champions Centre in Tacoma, Friday, to commemorate Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Shandon Wright.
Deputy Wright, 29, died last week after surgery to repair a shoulder injured while apprehending a criminal suspect. Wright’s shoulder reportedly had not healed properly after the incident, which took place last August, and he also re-injured it recently according to authorities.
The exact cause of Deputy Wright’s death has not been determined, officials stated, but the formal funerary service today confirms that they feel Wright died in the line of duty.
Wright is the sixth local police officer to have fallen in the past sixteen months. The “Lakewood Four,” Sgt Mark Renninger, Officer Tina Griswold, Officer Ronald Owens and Officer Greg Richards fell in Parkland on November 29, 2010; and Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Kent Mundell died a month later on December 28, from gun shot wounds received while responding to a domestic dispute in Eatonville.
For Mountain News readers, Deputy’s Wright death is even more poignant as he served in the South Hill Precinct and patrolled the northern half of Graham. Further, Shandon, and his wife of eight years, Janessa, and his three year-old daughter, Madison Elizabeth, lived nearby in the south Puyallup area.
Judging by the somber nature of Wright’s memorial, these accumulating police tragedies are beginning to take a toll on law enforcement. Sheriff Paul Pastor looked quite grim today as he addressed the assembled.
“We are here today to mourn the loss of one of our own,” said Pastor. “Although Deputy Wright was only with the department for a short time – five years – he had already established himself as the kind of officer that you would be proud having patrol your neighborhood. He was one of our best.”
Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy clearly noted Pastor’s demeanor as she sat next to him in the audience, and she addressed it in her remarks.
“Please keep the entire Pierce County Sheriff’s Department in your thoughts and prayers as you remember Deputy Shandon Wright,” she said. “They have all experienced so many tragedies in these recent years.”
Underscoring that issue, some of the commemorative photos of Deputy Wright showed him at the memorial service for the Lakewood Four.
Adding further weight to the gravity of the ceremony, Pierce County communications director Hunter George said that about ten police widows attended Deputy Wright’s service, including Lisa Mundell, widow of Kent Mundell.
As for Deputy Wright’s service to the community, one of Shandon’s training officers, Sgt. Glen Carpenter, called him “one of the best I ever trained. He took to police work like a fish takes to water.”
Sgt Carpenter added, “Shandon, I was so proud of you when you joined the department.”
Several of Deputy Wright’s fellow officers spoke, often with great difficulty as they struggled to control their emotions.
His partner in South Hill, Deputy Chris Olson, needed to pause multiple times and sip water as he told the gathering how “Shandon always had to be first to a call.” Olson described Wright as a man who loved being a police officer and took great pride in making his community a safer place.
In addition, Olson praised the tenacity that Wright brought to his police work, such as in an all-day search in dense woods with canine units that successfully apprehended murder suspect Robert Tucksen, an individual who had evaded police capture for over six months by reportedly living underground in the forests of Fort Lewis.
Tucksen allegedly murdered 21 year-old Graham resident, Zachariah Wright, (no relation to Shandon Wright) in June 2010, and then burned the body in a Spanaway house fire to cover-up the crime.
For Tucksen’s capture, Deputy Wright will be awarded the PCSD’s Medal of Merit posthumously in a ceremony next month.
“Shandon showed that a dedicated cop can make a difference,” said Olson.
Bonney Lake police officer Jimmy Keller told the assembly that he often responded to mutual aid calls with Shandon when they worked graveyard shifts. “Shandon liked to work graveyard because, as he would say, ‘That’s when the bad guys come out.’”
Keller constantly fought back tears as he spoke, clearly revealing his admiration of Deputy’s Wright’s skill and dedication, and the grief he felt in losing “a brother.”
Another South Hill partner, Deputy Matthew Smith, described how Deputy Wright possessed a grand perspective of his police work.
“’It’s all about the Legacy,’ Shandon would say,” especially after a particularly heroic piece of police work.
Sheriff Pastor confirmed that legacy and said that Shandon had received four PCSD Patrol Impact Awards for his outstanding work in the community.
The assembled was perhaps most moved when Shandon’s father, Fulton Wright, spoke.
“My beloved son, I have always been proud of you beyond words. I will always love you. Goodbye.”
PCSD Detective Ed Troyer spoke to both the solemnity of the occasion and the future by saying, “Yes, it has been difficult – we’ve gathered together for four or five police funerals in the past few years. But, we need to keep our heads up and keep going. Our communities are depending on us.”
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