Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Jim Saunders' Memorial
October 14, 1999
It is with a heavy heart that I stand here today. We gather here today with deeply mixed emotions-grief and gratitude-to pay tribute to State Trooper Jim Saunders who paid the ultimate sacrifice in performance of his duty to protect us all. Surely there is no more sorrowful experience than to stand with the family and friends of a law enforcement officer who gave his life in service to others.
Today is a sad day for the people of the State of Washington. We all know, in our heads, that officers risk death daily to protect us, but when one dies in the line of duty, our hearts are still shocked, stunned and overwhelmed with grief.
The night of his death, Trooper Saunders followed procedure - he did everything by the book. And yet he lost his life. It was beyond his control, and tragic, and senseless. Yet valiant. He died with honor.
Trooper Saunders was a big man. Both in his stature and in his heart. He was a hero. We all know that. But he was also a good and decent man.
Trooper Saunders was assigned to assist us whenever Mona or I were in the Tri-cities. Two weeks before his death, Mona spent all day Thursday with him and I spent much of Friday with him.
That Thursday, Mona and Jim talked about their kids and reading. And Mona asked Jim why he became a State Trooper. She wondered why anyone would want to have such a stressful and dangerous career. Jim didn’t see it that way. He loved being a State Trooper.
"I’ve just always wanted to help people," Jim told her. He said that being a State Trooper fulfilled him, because through his work, he could have a real impact on making the lives around him better lives. Safer lives. Happier lives.
Jim Saunders was a good man from the center of his being, and that goodness radiated out and touched and changed so many lives for the better. It was his dream to make a difference every day. And he did.
Jim was the ideal of what we want in every member of the Washington State Patrol and every law enforcement officer.
When we were together I felt a bond with Jim because of his deep love for... and pride in... his family. Jim was utterly devoted to Billie and Megan and loved them deeply. He was always talking about them. And he was so excited about the new baby.
Billie and Megan and the rest of the Saunders’ family - we are so sorry for your profound loss.
During these coming difficult months and in years to come... let’s each of us do everything we can to make sure the Jim’s family has no burden to carry beyond their own overwhelming grief. He gave his life protecting us. Let us now honor him by protecting the lives he has left behind.
It has been said that "those whom the gods favor die young." We are lucky to have known Trooper Jim Saunders. His spirit will live on in all of us.