The staff at Copies Today in Kelso started printing “Back the Blue” stickers at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. As evening approached, they were still trying to keep up with demand and had not stopped printing all day.
By Tuesday evening, they’d distributed nearly 10,000 of the stickers, which they made in honor of slain Cowlitz County sheriff’s deputy Justin DeRosier, according to Copies Today owner Patrick Palmer. Some have been mailed to as far away as Nevada and California. The business is giving them out for free.
“It’s really been overwhelming.” Palmer said. “I’ve lived here 27 years. I’ve tried to spearhead a number of events … (but) this one has just rocked my world.”
It’s one of many efforts by dozens of local businesses to raise money and show support for the family of the fallen deputy, who was shot Saturday night while responding to a routine vehicle investigation in Kalama. He died later at PeaceHealth Southwest Washington Medical Center in Vancouver.
“There’s just been a great outpouring locally,” Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman said Tuesday. “The community’s really stepping up and taking care of our family and officers. … The footprint of the reaction and support is just growing by the day.”
Thurman said mail has started coming in from around the country to express sympathy and solidarity for DeRosier. During a press conference Monday, Thurman described DeRosier as devoted to the job, signing up for every responsibility he could. DeRosier could have been sheriff himself one day, Thurman said.
Palmer said he’s gone through half of a box of Kleenex crying with his friends. Copies Today ran out of adhesive card paper late in the morning Tuesday, he said, so other printers including Minuteman Press have stepped in to help them keep the stickers coming.
“I only met Justin a few times, but you knew that he was cut from the right stock,” Palmer said. “I’m always amazed at how incredible and resilient our law enforcement officials are under the most terrible circumstances.”
More than 1,000 people have indicated on Facebook they will participate in a “Back The Blue Friday” by wearing “thin blue line” apparel to support local law enforcement. Organizers of that effort also have scheduled a gathering at 6:15 p.m. Friday at the Longview Civic Circle, which will include a prayer from the Cowlitz County Chaplaincy.
Police say DeRosier was shot and killed by Brian Butts, 33, who is the half-brother of Daniel Butts, a man sentenced in March to a minimum of nearly 49 years in prison for the 2011 murder of Rainier Police chief Ralph Painter. Brian Butts was shot and killed by Kelso police on Sunday.
Details of the confrontation with two Kelso police officers, who were not wounded, still have not been made public. Authorities have said Butts was armed, but court papers say he also gave a firearm to Matthew Veatch after shooting DeRosier Saturday night.
Reached by phone Tuesday Brian’s Butts’ stepfather Mikel Butts of Kalama said: “As I understand it, Justin did not suffer for very long. My heart goes out to Mr. DeRosier’s family and friends who do.”
He has not seen his stepson in 15 years, he said, declining all other on-the-record comment.
Brian Butts has been sentenced four times for drug-related crimes in addition to convictions for assault, robbery, theft and burglary. Most recently, he was sentenced to seven years and one month in prison for selling methamphetamine in 2012.
Butts’ autopsy was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, and any results will likely be released Wednesday, Cowlitz County Coroner Tim Davidson said.
The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office says it will release the cause and manner of DeRosier’s death Wednesday.
Another person implicated in DeRosier’s shooting, Matthew Veatch of Kalama, will be arraigned May 2. He is being held at the Cowlitz County Jail on suspicion of helping Butts to escape from police after the shooting and disposing of Butts’ handgun.
His brother Michael Veatch is briefly mentioned in Matthew Veatch’s arrest, but has not been directly linked to the investigation into DeRosier’s death by authorities.
Numerous local companies have set up both fundraisers and ways to donate directly to the DeRosier family. Fibre Federal Credit Union is accepting donations at any branch or online through April 20, and non-members can donate by calling 360-423-8750 or toll free: 800-205-7872. Red Canoe is also accepting donations at any branch.
“People started asking to donate before we even started a fundraiser,” marketing manager Heather Snyder said.
Red Leaf is accepting donations at all locations, along with Dutch Bros at its Kelso and Longview locations. The businesses will donate 20 percent of all food and drink sales to the family on Wednesday. Vault Books & Brew in Castle Rock and River’s Edge Coffee in Woodland will also be fundraising.
“Justin made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Mark Luna, owner-franchisee of Dutch Bros’ Cowlitz County locations. “And whatever way we can honor that sacrifice is the least we can do for him and his family. As well as just providing people an outlet to give them something.”