The sheriff's deputies who patrol the sprawling 700 square miles of mostly rural southeastern Pierce County are more than a badge. To many who live there, the 22 deputies of the Mountain Detachment are neighbors or friends, almost like family.
“Having been a resident here for 20 years, my husband and I have always had a rapport with the local police and deputies,” said Jenny Smith, who’s run the Truly Scrumptious Bakery and Café in Eatonville for years. “They are just someone we have always been friendly with.”
When the news broke the night of Dec. 21 that two of the detachment’s deputies had been shot, the first question for most residents wasn’t how did it happen.
It was who was shot? Was it Mike? Jim? Pete?
Sgt. Nick Hausner and deputy Kent Mundell were wounded while responding to a domestic violence call at Tanwax Lake near Eatonville. Housner, 43, was hospitalized but survived his wounds; Mundell, 44, died Monday evening.
In the Eatonville area especially, the two deputies and their colleagues are not just uniforms.
All of the deputies and their families live in the Mountain Detachment’s patrol area, which stretches from Roy and McKenna east through Eatonville to Ashford and Mount Rainier National Park.
Residents get to know the deputies by their first names. The officers bring their kids to local sports events. They are waved at in grocery stores, in restaurants, at the movies.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in Eatonville, the largest community in the area. The town’s six police officers work closely with the deputies; they often back each other up.
John and Tammi Bratholm were returning to Eatonville from Puyallup when she saw a text message from her daughter saying two deputies had been shot.
“I replied: Is this a joke? Or is this old news?” Tammi Bratholm recalled last week. “No,” she said, “it’s happening right now in Eatonville.”
Bratholm, who once was a community advocate in the Sheriff’s Department, said she panicked at the news. The Bratholms, who own Jebino’s Ristorante in Eatonville, know Housner well. They had been to his house for a Christmas party.
“I heard something about a sergeant involved,” she said. “I said it was Nick. I just had this bad feeling.”
Two weeks earlier Hausner and his family were in their restaurant having dinner. It wasn’t long after the fatal shooting Nov. 29 of four Lakewood police officers.
John Bratholm rapped for silence and announced that a police officer was in the restaurant. The place erupted in applause.
“They were just clapping, thanking him,” Tammi Bratholm said.
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