Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead and Cpl. Alexis Robinson embrace during a memorial for Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead and Cpl. Alexis Robinson embrace during a memorial for Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

‘Simply the best’: Memorial honors state trooper Chris Gadd in Everett

Hundreds of law enforcement officers streamed into Angel of the Winds Arena for an emotional public memorial Tuesday.

EVERETT — If things got out of control, trooper Chris Gadd “had your back.”

He was “always ready” to jump into a situation, recalled Grace Haskins, an EMT who responded to medical calls for an ambulance service in 2019 and 2020 in Seattle.

In an interview Tuesday, his former ambulance partner said she hoped people recognized Gadd as “not necessarily just another state patrol officer, but Chris, the one who had devoted his adult life to being a firefighter, being an EMT, to being a state patrol officer, just working for people.”

Gadd, 27, died March 2 when an SUV crossed into the right shoulder of southbound I-5 near Marysville, crashing into Gadd’s vehicle at high speed around 3 a.m.

He was married and had a 2-year-old daughter.

Dozens of police vehicles gathered near the Tulalip Resort Casino for the fallen Washington State Patrol trooper. They set off around 11 a.m. Tuesday on a 15-mile procession down I-5 and around the city of Everett. People lined the streets as the motorcade arrived at a public memorial at Angel of the Winds Arena around 11:40 a.m.

The procession passed under a gigantic American flag held in place by two ladder trucks on Hewitt Avenue. A state patrol honor guard led the procession to the arena’s entrance as a corridor of officers stood at attention. Hundreds of law enforcement officers streamed into the arena ahead of the 1 p.m. service.

The drone of bagpipes filtered through the streets of downtown Everett as Gadd’s casket, draped in an American flag, made its way down Broadway. A lone horse, carrying the trooper’s campaign hat, cantered at the front of the funeral procession.

Hundreds of members of law enforcement from throughout the state attended the event. Others came from out of the state to show their respect, including a few Texas Rangers. His sister Jacqueline is a state trooper in Texas.

Brandi Hawkins stood along Hewitt with her family as the motorcade arrived. They wanted to “show support” for Gadd as the community mourned the loss.

“It’s tragic what happened to this young man,” she said.

Hawkins, who said her son has had medical complications from a young age, said she “understands what first responders go through.”

Joneen and Jack Richards also attended the service to show their support for first responders. Jack, a retired chaplain for the Everett Police Department, said the memorial was a reminder that “we don’t live as individuals, we live as a community.”

Washington State Patrol troopers on motorcycles ride down Marine View Drive in a memorial procession for fallen trooper Chris Gadd on Tuesday, March 12, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Washington State Patrol troopers on motorcycles ride down Marine View Drive in a memorial procession for fallen trooper Chris Gadd on Tuesday, March 12, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Pastor Matt Krachunis, of Faith and Victory Church in Auburn, opened the ceremony with a prayer. He asked God to comfort Gadd’s wife, daughter, family and friends.

“Chris did what God created him to do,” he told the crowd.

Krachunis, who knew Gadd since he was a child, recalled how Gadd took on a “big brother persona” for Krachunis’ son and other kids in the neighborhood.

Fellow troopers carry the casket of Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, during a memorial at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Fellow troopers carry the casket of Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, during a memorial at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

“He deeply loved others and was deeply loved by others,” he said. “The world was better with him in it.”

Gadd was born in Pasco. He graduated from Kentlake High School in Kent, then went on to attend Green River College and Tacoma Community College, earning his EMT certification.

Gadd was eager to learn, said his former EMT partner, Haskins. On medical calls, he would often ask doctors and nurses what was going on to try to improve his skills. Gadd was even-keeled but didn’t take himself too seriously, Haskins recalled. He knew when to laugh at himself, and he had a goofy sense of humor. And he had a genuine interest in helping others.

A trooper’s hat is carried behind Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd’s remains during a memorial on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A trooper’s hat is carried behind Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd’s remains during a memorial on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Gadd began working for the state patrol in September 2021 as a trooper cadet assigned to Grandview, Yakima County. His father, David, is also a state trooper in King County. Gadd was part of the 116th Trooper Basic Training class.

State patrol Cpl. Alexis Robinson, one of Gadd’s academy instructors, said he impressed her with his “ceaseless tenacity.”

“I will always be grateful that Chris was my student,” Robinson said, “not only for the opportunity to teach him, but for what he taught me,” like helping her vocabulary. He had a penchant for words like “hullabaloo.”

Upon graduation in November 2022, he received two honors: the Top Collision Investigation Award and the Top Academic Award. After graduation, he was assigned to Marysville.

Chaplains listen as “Taps” is played during a memorial for Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Chaplains listen as “Taps” is played during a memorial for Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Gadd’s sergeant, Anthony Califano, recalled Gadd’s easygoing sense of humor. One of Gadd’s fellow troopers had assisted Gadd in towing a driver’s vehicle. It became an inside joke that Gadd was in the trooper’s debt. A few weeks later, the trooper’s car was broken down and stranded on I-5. Gadd passed by, honking his airhorn.

When Gadd learned his fellow trooper was actually stranded on the freeway, his smile faded.

“I’ll never live this one down, will I?” he asked.

Washington State Patrol troopers perform a ceremony in honor of fellow trooper Chris Gadd on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Washington State Patrol troopers perform a ceremony in honor of fellow trooper Chris Gadd on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Gadd looked up to his father, Haskins said. Even before he chose the state patrol as a career path, she had a feeling he’d end up following in his dad’s footsteps.

“I knew he would be an awesome dad just from how he interacted with kids,” Haskins said. “He was a kid himself, really.”

She added: “Chris was serving others in any facet of life, with his family or his friends or his job.”

State patrol Capt. Ron Mead said troopers will support Gadd’s family “through this tragedy and beyond.”

“I can’t make many promises, but I will make one,” Mead said. “We will never forget. We will never forget Chris or the other 32 heroes who died while serving this state as members of the Washington State Patrol.”

Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said Gadd “was simply the best of us.”

Grace Haskins, left, with ambulance coworker and EMT Chris Gadd, who later became a state trooper. (Courtesy photo)

Grace Haskins, left, with ambulance coworker and EMT Chris Gadd, who later became a state trooper. (Courtesy photo)

Early on March 2, Gadd had stopped along the right shoulder of I-5 near 136th Street NE while on routine patrol for intoxicated drivers.

Detectives obtained dashcam footage from a truck driver who witnessed the crash. In the footage, the truck was going 70 mph. Raul Benitez Santana, driving a black GMC Yukon XL, reportedly passed it on the left side at a high rate of speed — fast enough to be “pulling away from the truck,” Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Marc Monson wrote in a report released last week.

In the video, Benitez Santana “appears to turn the right turn signal off momentarily while still drifting across the far right lane and beginning to enter the right shoulder of the roadway,” the detective wrote. “The Benitez Santana vehicle continues to travel on the shoulder of the road and is completely out of the lane as he approaches Trooper Gadd’s stationary vehicle.”

About a second before impact, Benitez Santana slammed on his brakes, the detective wrote. The crash destroyed both vehicles. Benitez Santana’s vehicle ricocheted all the way across the interstate, while the police cruiser rotated into a ditch.

Members of the Washington State Patrol salute the casket of fallen trooper Chris Gadd during a memorial ceremony on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Members of the Washington State Patrol salute the casket of fallen trooper Chris Gadd during a memorial ceremony on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Police arrested Benitez Santana, 32, for investigation of vehicular homicide. A judge approved a warrant to test his blood for drugs and alcohol. A breath test, given about 3½ hours after the crash, reportedly had a reading of 0.047 blood-alcohol content.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that flags will be flown at half-staff in Gadd’s honor.

“Trooper Gadd will be missed but not forgotten,” Inslee tweeted.

Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd’s casket is brought out by fellow troopers following a memorial ceremony on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd’s casket is brought out by fellow troopers following a memorial ceremony on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Gadd is survived by his wife Cammryn, daughter Kaelyn, father David, mother Gillian and sister Jacqueline.

Josiah Demildt, a newly recruited deputy with the Island County Sheriff’s Office, attended the memorial on his day off.

He wanted to “pay my respects” to Gadd, though he didn’t know him personally, and to make sure the family feels supported.

After the ceremony, Gadd’s family released a statement:

“Witnessing the seats of the arena filled with representatives from across the country was warming to our hearts as we came together to honor a beloved husband, father, son, and brother. We deeply appreciate all who have reached out and shown your love to our family during this difficult time. We will continue on this difficult journey together privately as a family.”

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486; jonathan.tall@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @snocojon.

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