Elmer Wittman #1145, retired Seattle Police Homicide Sergeant passed away June 5th, 2017 at the age of 92.
Elmer was born in Bazine, Kansas on December 23, 1924, he was almost a Christmas gift. He stayed there even after high school, helping his dad with the family carpentry business. Times were hard in Bazine, due to both the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years. Then along came WWII so he joined the Navy at 18 years of age. He was assigned to the Destroyer USS Connolly, named after a Pearl Harbor Casualty. The ship survived kamikaze attacks and a typhoon while protecting the troop at Iwo Jima, Okinawa and in the Philippines. Elmer left the Navy after his ship was decommissioned and sold for scrap in May of 1946.
He moved to Seattle in 1948 and found work as a carpenter. The next year, on Christmas Eve, he met June, his future wife. Carpentry work was somewhat undependable because the economy had not yet recovered from its war time footing. So, Elmer applied to the Police Department in early 1950. He was hired on September 1, 1950. Nine months later, he married June on her birthday.
Elmer’s first assignment from day one was motorcycles. He did not have any prior experience on bikes but traffic needed a carpenter to do remodeling in the office. He stayed on bikes for almost six years. Then he went to Patrol for four months. Maybe the Patrol Chief had a project.
On January 7, 1957, Elmer went to the Detective Bureau. He never wore a uniform again. His first stop was two years in Burglary, then two years as an Investigator in Traffic Collision. The next four years were spent in Polygraph, and in 1965 he moved to Fugitive. One December 27, 1965, he was promoted to sergeant and remained in Fugitive for a couple of years. During this time, he took a young detective under his wing – Shaun O’Kinsella #2076 .
In 1969, he was the Robbery Sergeant when a new Cadet, Jay Nicholson #2770 was assigned. Elmer asked him to help on a little carpentry side job, for pay of course. Jay said yes, always needing money. After one day of doing real work with Elmer, Jay retired from being a carpenter’s helper. In fact, whenever any other Cadet asked him about working on the side for Elmer, Jay would reply, “Don’t. He will work you in the ground even though he’s almost 30 years older than you.”
In 1970, Elmer moved to Homicide. One shift he responded to a police shooting. Joe Sanford #1896, and Jerry Adams #2010 were on a narcotics raid at a house next to Columbian Way, where it leads down to I-5. The suspect was on a second story deck, overhanging the sidewalk, pointing a handgun at the two. Jerry shot the suspect twice. When Elmer arrived, he told them it seemed like a good shooting, but where is the gun? They didn’t know. He made them search of the home, the deck, and the steep back yard full of blackberry bushes for hours – still no gun. Then Joe, back on the deck, saw a car headlight glint off a shining object about 100 yards down Columbian Way. Sure enough, it was the chrome plated gun that had fallen out into the street, then tumbled down the roadway. Elmer told Joe and Jerry, “Now you can stop searching after all these hours, and report to Homicide to write your statements before going home.” Who says the DOJ requirements are the only tough report writing requirements. Later Joe was recruited to Robbery by Elmer as a fellow sergeant. Elmer actually preferred Robbery to Homicide. So, he returned there. He was a good detective, a fantastic sergeant, and a great guy.
He retired in March of 1978 after 27 years and seven months of service. He returned to his carpentry trade full time. He built Joe’s house. Joe tried unsuccessfully to keep up with Elmer who was 15 years older. Elmer never took a break while working except a short 20-minute lunch to eat a sandwich. Many times, he ate his sandwich on the roof – too much work to do to waste time climbing down.
Elmer’s wife June passed away on Saturday, June 3rd. Two days later Elmer passed on. Their joint funeral mass was on June 17th which was their wedding anniversary and June’s birthday. They are survived by their daughter Ann, sons David and Mark, and four grandchildren.