Tacoma remembers one of its own

Tacoma police officer James Lewis was remembered as someone who got ahead in life by helping others, whether it be his peers, the citizens he served for nearly two decades or his family.

Interim Tacoma police chief Don Ramsdell recalled an instance where Lewis volunteered to rummage through some raw sewage because he had the oldest uniform and he didn’t want his colleagues to get their uniforms dirty.

The next day he would probably be sporting the newest uniform, Ramsdell quipped, also noting how Lewis always kept his badge and boots polished to a high shine.

Laughter and tears filled the Tacoma Dome Wednesday during a two-hour memorial service for Lewis, 45, who was killed April 27 when his motorcycle collided with a car as he was responding to a call for assistance on a felony traffic stop.

A Tacoma police motorcycle was parked to one side of the stage. A helmet sat atop the handlebars, with a pair of black boots nearby. A large photo of Lewis perched on his police motorcycle faced outward toward the assembled crowd.

Prior to the memorial service, people lined the streets as a police motorcade in honor of the fallen officer made its way from Cheney Stadium to the Tacoma Dome. Police and public safety departments from across the state, as well as Oregon, Idaho and Canada, were represented.

“What an awesome tribute to a great person and a great officer,” Ramsdell said of his friend Lewis, whom he described as a dedicated individual who loved being a Tacoma police officer. Both men joined the department in 1985.

Lewis was someone who liked to be out front in life, Ramsdell said. He reminisced about the time both men ran the Sound to Narrows race. It was Lewis’ first time and he quickly made his way among the race leaders. Ramsdell, running at a more modest pace, eventually passed a struggling Lewis, who nevertheless persevered and finished the race.

“I hope the day I leave this great earth, Jim is waiting for me at the finish line,” Ramsdell said.

Other speakers echoed Lewis’ commitment as a public servant, enthusiastic outdoorsman and family man.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to you in this time of sorrow,” Gov. Gary Locke said to family, friends and fellow police officers.

Locke described Lewis as someone who leaves behind a legacy of service and loyalty.

“Jim was a good man who did the right thing day in, day out,” he said.

Mayor Bill Baarsma lauded Lewis as a member of the thin blue line. “This is an emotional moment for us,” he said.

Two large video screens displaying a montage of photos showed a man who enjoyed his work, reveled in the outdoors and loved his family.

Lewis was shown posing outside a Tacoma police substation; relaxing on the top of mountains; camping in the woods; and holding up his catch of the day next to his fishing rod. Others included some wedding photos, as well as one where he gave a thumbs up to the camera with his son.

Lewis is survived by his wife, Toy, and their 9-year-old son, Nicholas.

“Many will miss him,” said Pat Hogan, Tacoma police chaplain.

“No one could take Jim’s life,” he said. “He gave it.”

Lewis spent his entire 19-year career as a patrol officer but transferred to the motorcycle unit in January He joined the department on Jan. 7, 1985. He also was involved in the department’s search-and-rescue team and spent nearly a decade as a volunteer for the Tacoma Mountain Rescue Unit.

The memorial began with pallbearers bringing Lewis’ flag-draped casket into the cavernous Tacoma Dome as fellow motorcycle officers solemnly filed in behind.

The Portland Police Pipe Band played “Amazing Grace” near the service’s end.

Two rotating members of the Tacoma police honor guard flanked the casket throughout the service.

It concluded with a rendition of taps and a police dispatcher broadcasting one last call for Lewis over department channels. “Gone,” she said, “but not forgotten.”