By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
In the aftermath of one of the worst shootings of police officers in Washington in decades–where four Lakewood officers were gunned down as they dined at local coffee shop–citizens expressed their grief and horror for such a tragic and senseless act. The Lakewood Police Independent Guild formed a memorial fund for the benefit of widows, husbands, children, and other family members. Donations poured in from within the state and elsewhere. It was a remarkable showing of solidarity and compassion towards a grieving family of law enforcement officers and their friends.
Yet to the disgust of everyone, Skeeter Manos, one of Lakewood’s own officers, took advantage of their generosity and bilked these families out of $112,000.00. He also stole $47,000.00 from the guild’s funds in his capacity as treasurer.
To take money after the slaying of his brother and sister officers is just about as low as you can get. As a further act of his depravity, he burned through these families’ money by purchasing luxuries such as expensive vacations and other frivolous toys.
Manos later pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court and was consequently sentenced to two years of a potential twenty year maximum. Several months ago, he was unfortunately released.
In a testament to the old parable “There is no honor among thieves” he again is in trouble with the law. This time, he is alleged to have stolen from a new employer who wanted “to give him a second chance.”
The unfortunate events for Lakewood transpired on November 29, 2009 when Sergeant Mark Renninger, Officer Tina Griswold, Officer Greg Richards and Officer Ronald Owens were murdered in an ambush style attack while they sat at a Parkland coffee shop.
Each of the officers were seated at a table waiting for their order when the suspect entered carrying a 9 mm handgun and shot officer Griswold, killing her instantly. He then shot and killed Sgt. Renninger. After the suspect’s pistol jammed he drew a second weapon then shot and killed Officer Owens. In an attempt to subdue the suspect, Officer Richards shot the suspect once in the torso however the suspect was able to disarm the officer and murdered him. After a two-day manhunt the suspect was aired out by a Seattle police officer.
The outpouring of support from the community was tremendous. Police officers, Sheriff’s deputies, State patrol, and others from Canada and other nations offered their deep condolences and attended a very large memorial for the officers killed. The community rallied to support victims’ families.
For myself, a friend of mine was one of Lakewood’s officers. A few days after the murders I drove to Lakewood and we went to the police department to offer our support. Outside the headquarters a large citizen’s memorial stood at the corner with countless numbers of flowers and some signs thanking these officers for their services and showing their great sadness for their tragic demise. Inside about a half-dozen or more officers were sifting through and sorting the checks, cash and other letters donated to the memorial fund the guild set up earlier for the benefit the families. I can say it was very humbling and welcoming to see the great magnitude of donations that had filtered in so quickly from the community. My family was also one of the contributors as were others I asked to support the cause. A month later we suffered our own loss when one of my coworkers also died in the line of duty.
When I later received word that one of Lakewood’s own officers stole from the memorial fund, you can imagine the outrage that I felt. For one of us to steal from our own brothers and sisters and their families for me is about as low as a person can get in the profession and whatever a judge would later sentence Skeeter Manos to it would be too light in my view.
Manos was convicted of wire fraud and served two years in prison.
After his release, Manos turned to construction to support himself. It wasn’t long before his nefarious ways got the best of him and now he is allegedly involved in stealing more money; this time from his new employer.
In light of the possibility of charges being levied against him, Manos attempted to pathetically take the high road by claiming he saw homeowners being billed for work that had not been performed and that they were overcharged for supplies, proffering that it was actually his employer that was stealing from the customers. He later turned himself in to the police but first contacted a Seattle news broadcaster to offer his excuse for what happened. His employer, Integrated Home Construction, believes otherwise and accused him of using company funds for his own benefit.
Business Owner Carolyn Valdeman lamented how she tried to offer Manos another opportunity to redeem himself but it was not going to happen.
“We believe in second chances I like the idea of hiring people who want to change.”
During his interview with the news medium, Manos gave what I considered to be a completely non-credible statement which I believe accurately reflects upon content of his character.
“…and for somebody to essentially take what’s not given to them, you know, I did that. I will regret that for the rest of my life. And if I can stop someone else from having that happen to them then I’m going to do that.”
Manos claims that he will not receive fair treatment from the police and this was the reason he decided to turn himself in.
” I do have a reputation with them. I was a former police officer. I violated my oath of office. My victims are police officers.”
He claims that he will spend the rest of his life apologizing for his actions. Cry me a river. He should have thought of that before he stole from widows and children of his own department. He had the opportunity, but it is apparent he will not change. Your apology, Skeeter, is just words: your actions are telling.
As you can imagine, I don’t believe one word of what Mr. Manos says. His statements are typical of a sociopathic thief who chooses to blame the victim for his crimes, and to claim that he is offering some form of justice on behalf of the citizens. He was a poor excuse for an officer, and an even worse excuse for a man. It is my sincere hope that if convicted Skeeter Manos will suffer a couple of decades behind bars where he belongs.
In the meantime I ask those reading this article to take a long look at the picture I have furnished of Mr. Manos. Remember his face and afford him no courtesy, respect, trust, or anything that might be of benefit to him no matter how small. He is an unworthy individual and he deserves none of society’s blessings.
There are many forms of justice Skeeter. It’s time for you to receive yours.
By Darren Smith
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