3 badges, 24 hours: Pierce County Deputy Jim Jones



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Posted on January 28, 2010 at 12:09 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 28 at 8:39 AM

Between Halloween and Christmas of last year, six Western Washington law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty. Five of them were deliberately targeted.

In the wake of those shootings, the KING 5 Investigators rode along with three officers during one 24-hour period, covering the same beats where their friends and colleagues died. The goal was to capture the emotions and feelings these officers are still struggling with as they carry out the job of protecting us.

Our series "3 badges: 24 hours" continues with Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Jim Jones.

Twenty-eight year veteran Jim Jones starts his dayshift in blustery conditions in the mountains of Southeast Pierce County. He’s part of the Mountain Detachment of the Sheriff’s Office. These deputies patrol a huge rural area: 715 square miles between Roy, Eatonville, and the tiny town of Ashford. Jones calls the job the best the Sheriff’s Office has to offer; where you get to work in "God’s country."

Early on in the shift, he makes a routine traffic stop. A citizen’s brake lights aren’t working. But even the mundane is a different animal out here in the country roads below Mount Rainier. If something goes wrong, you're on your own. A back-up squad car can be miles and miles away.

"It may be 40 minutes before you get the next police car. So you're either going to be successful (handling it alone) or there's going to be another bad day in Pierce County," said Jones.

The last bad day out here was right before Christmas - December 21.

Two Mountain Detachment colleagues were shot responding to a domestic violence call.

Deputy Kent Mundell, a dear friend of Deputy Jones’, didn't make it.

He spoke about his last minutes with Mundell at the memorial on January 5.

"I got to kiss him on the forehead. I got to tell him how proud I was of him. I got to tell him I love him and I got to tell him goodbye. And it was very important for me,” said Jones.

"My friends and co-workers, we die by being murdered," Jones said as we drove the roads of his beat. "You get to know somebody really well and then they’re taken away. It’s something you think about quite often."

The next call is to help arrest a man suspected in a string of burglaries. The job for Deputy Jones is to secure the back door.

"If he runs out the back, we will chase him down and hopefully apprehend him," said Jones.

It turns out the suspect isn’t home.

If anyone should be apprehensive about putting the badge back on, it's Jim Jones. Not one, but three close friends have been murdered on the job: Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy John Bananola was shot and killed during a drug raid in 1995.

Two years later Tacoma Police Officer Bill Lowry, a college buddy of Jones’, was killed in a hail of gunfire during a stand-off.

And then, Kent Mundell.

"I think that most of us realize it could happen to any of us at any time, it’s the luck of the draw." said Jones.

But worrying he could be next is the last thing he lets himself do.

"You can't let that bother you or make you not do your job or be afraid that you could get injured or somebody sooner or later is going to take your life."

Near the end of his shift Jones stops because of debris in the roadway from an unsecured load-boxes and boxes of kitty litter.

No matter how benign the call may seem, in a split second, things can go wrong.

With that in mind, Kent Mundell left behind an important lesson which Deputy Jones passed on to fellow officers at the memorial: Honor your colleagues and let them know it.

"Kent never had a problem saying 'I love you, man.' He would type it on our mobile dispatch computer after you left a call, he'd say it to you after you left a call. And I think that's something we should all take to heart," said Jones.