By Manuel Valdes Associated Press
KENT — Before hundreds of law enforcement personnel, the head of the Washington State Patrol apologized Thursday to the family of a trooper killed while on duty and told them the state would not forget his death.
Tony Radulescu “took his oath of office very seriously. From day one in Bremerton, he went about doing the people’s business,” chief John Batiste said. “Mr. Radulescu, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I lost your son. It pains me dearly, but you should know we will never ever forget him.”
Radulescu was shot dead one week ago by Joshua Blake — an ex-con with a history of antagonizing police — during a patrol stop near Gorst, about 20 miles west of Seattle across Puget Sound.
Hours after killing Radulescu, Blake committed suicide with a single shot to the head as a SWAT team closed in on a Port Orchard home. Authorities had received a tip Blake was in the house.
Thousands of police officers, firefighters, friends and family gathered for Radulescu’s memorial service Thursday, recalling how Radulescu was an immigrant who embraced life in the United States, served in the first Gulf War and then dedicated himself to patrolling state highways, nabbing speeders and drunken drivers.
Radulescu is the 27th trooper in the state’s history to die on duty.
Gov. Chris Gregoire, who noted that Radulescu served on her security detail, said “Tony gave his life, protecting you, protecting me, protecting every Washingtonian.”
The service began after a long procession of about 700 law enforcement and emergency vehicles with lights flashing escorted the hearse carrying Radulescu’s body. The procession passed under an American flag hanging from an arch made by fire truck ladders.
Other drivers pulled over and people watched from overpasses and roadsides as the procession made its way from Silverdale, through Port Orchard, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It joined a family procession from a Lakewood funeral home on the way to the ShoWare Center in Kent.
The stage was decorated with items from Radulescu’s life, including model cars, sword collection and pictures from his time with the Army. His coffin was draped with the U.S. flag.
“We were supposed to grow old together, having walker races and cane fights,” said his girlfriend, Gina Miller, a dispatcher for the state patrol. “On February 23, a horrific act of evil and cowardice took the life of your hero and protector and took my love, my hero, my protector, my Tony.”
Born in Romania, Radulescu moved to the United States when he was 14. He graduated from high school in New Jersey and later joined the Army, serving until 1994 when he began making his way to Washington state, according to the state patrol.
His son, Erick, spoke briefly during the memorial, saying that his father continues to make a difference in the community, even in death.
He said that the state House of Representatives, prompted by his father’s death, had approved a bill the night before that creates a public alert system, similar to an Amber alert, whenever a suspected police killer is on the loose. The measure now goes to the Senate.
“Even though I lost one very close family member, it looks like I’ve got thousands more,” he said.
Erick Radulescu, who has served two tours in Afghanistan with the Army, has told friends he wants to become a state trooper, like his father.
Six people have been arrested in connection to Radulescu’s slaying, including Blake’s former girlfriend and mother of one of his children.
Kitsap County authorities said Jessi Leigh Foster, 32, continued to help Blake even after learning he had shot Radulescu.