Pierce County deputy safety: ‘Maybe they need their backup in the front seat with them’

SOUTH HILL, Wash. – Friday morning’s incident in which a lone deputy fired shots at two suspects in a stolen vehicle marks the second officer-involved shooting in unincorporated Pierce County in less than a week.

The deputy who opened fire Friday morning was working solo in his police cruiser, according to investigators. So was deputy Daniel McCartney, the officer shot and killed late Sunday night while chasing a suspect in a home-invasion robbery in Frederickson.

Some neighbors are now wondering what they can do to help boost police presence in their communities.

Many of the neighbors who spoke to Q13 News believe they are seeing an increase in crimes like burglaries and car prowls. Some of those said they would be willing to pay more in taxes to get more deputies on the ground to keep everyone safe.

“It totally wiped out our chain link fence,” said Diane Langer, whose front yard turned into a violent police confrontation Friday morning.

It’s where a Pierce County sheriff’s deputy opened fire on a pair of suspects after investigators say they tried running over the officer.

In the process, Langer’s fence was damaged and so was her car.

After learning the officer involved in the shooting was working alone, Langer says she’d be willing to pony up more in taxes to hire more officers.

“I think if crime and issues are a going to keep happening, that maybe them riding alone is something that needs to be addressed,” she said.

“There’s a reason I’m picking my kids up from school and not letting them walk home,” said South Hill resident John Petersen.

He said he also has seen crime rise near his neighborhood – and he wants to see more officers on the beat.

“Part of the reason I bought in unincorporated 10 years ago was lower property tax,” he said. “Well, I didn’t realize what that meant, to be honest. If they said right now, let’s annex into Puyallup so we had a full police department, I’d vote for that.”

“Our detectives are spent,” said Pierce County Sheriff’s Detective Ed Troyer on Wednesday. “They’re working four times as many cases as other agencies. We’ve just kind of hit our limit.”

On Wednesday sheriff’s department officials asked residents to consider what they would be willing to do to increase safety across the county.

“We are asking that everybody take a hard look at what we’re doing, what our guys are doing nightly, and what do we need to do to keep our guys safe,” said Troyer.

“Maybe they need their backup in the front seat with them,” said Langer.

Some neighbors said public safety needs to become a higher priority, especially in a county that is only expected to grow quickly in the next few years.

“They say they don’t have the manpower,” said Petersen. “I don’t’ ever see it on the ballot to get more.”

Q13 News has repeatedly asked the Pierce County Council and Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier for on-camera interviews to respond to Sheriff Paul Pastor describing how his agency is short-handed.

But so far they have refused our requests and instead pointed to a jointly released statement that came out earlier this week.

“Deputy McCartney’s death is a tragic reminder that our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to protect us. We will continue to support our sheriff’s department, and after the investigation concludes, we will have answers to questions about what happened and what we can do to ensure officer safety. Right now, our top priority, is supporting deputy McCartney’s family, our sheriff deputies and the community through this tragic loss.”

Q13 News will continue asking local lawmakers for on-camera interviews about the sheriff’s department staffing levels and share their response when they provide the opportunity.