Retired Seattle Police Officers Association

Last Ring

Take a moment to remember our friends and associates who have passed.

Larry Sutton #2586, retired Seattle Police Vice Detective passed away on May 19, 2017 at the age of 79.

Larry was born in Hutchinson, Oklahoma during the dust bowl years. His family tried to make a go of it. But in 1939, the family had to forfeit the farm. The parents loaded up their old Model A pickup with all their worldly possessions, strapped onto the truck, including their seven children. Larry was just 2 years old then. This is right out of the pages of The Grapes of Wrath. They arrived in Eugene, Oregon months later.

In Eugene, his father got a job as a logger. Larry grew up in Eugene. After graduating from high school in 1955, he moved out, to Seattle. He landed an expediter job at Boeing. During his eight years there, Larry was upgraded several times. In 1963, his occupation specialty was downgraded with a loss of pay. So, Larry quit. He got a laborer’s job in construction. One shift, while hand-digging in a water filled ditch, he saw two patrolmen sitting in their warm car. He thought, “that’s my kind of work!”

He began applying to the Seattle Police Department. The World’s Fair hiring surge was over, resulting in slow hiring. It took Larry three years on the hiring lists to be offered a position. He was hired June 27, 1966 at the age of 29.

He worked Patrol for four years. In 1970, the Department built a new Communications Center under the direction of Charlie Hill #1647 and Lieutenant Clay Bean #1588, on the 2nd floor of the PSB. Larry transferred to Radio that year. It was not uncommon during a monotonous shift for a call taker to light up an IBM call data card and send down the track, yelling to a dispatcher “hot call coming.” Other times, a banana peel would be sent down the track without a warning. As the track arrived at the dispatcher station, a warning alarm would sound so the dispatcher could just reach down without looking and grab the IBM data card. Only this time, instead of a card, it would be an old gooey banana peel. One shift, a caller requested the Lake City Police to take an on-scene burglary report. Larry, never having worked Wallingford, didn’t know Lake City was a district in Seattle. So, the caller was told to call information to get the phone number for Lake City’s Police Department.

After two years, Larry wanted back on the street, so he went to 3rd Watch Georgetown. There, he teamed up with Larry Shaffer #3105. They would not allow the outlaw bikers to wear their colors in the district. They would be stopped and forced to take their colors off. One night, the two Larrys were dispatched to a disturbance in a bar. The suspect was a real large biker. Both Larrys told him to leave. He refused saying, “I’ll fight you two to see who stays.” Sutton just laughed and said “No, you’re going to fight the two rookies over there and not us two old guys.” The two new officers looked startled, but resigned. The biker laughed, saying “Good move Officer Sutton” and left.

After four years, Sutton transferred to West Central 1st Watch. Five years later, Larry Shaffer followed him. They partnered up again and worked the International (Chinatown) District. One morning, they were dispatched to the PSB lobby to eject a local 220 named Anna. She weighed about 300 pounds and was quite tall. They finally managed to get her to leave the lobby and attempted to put her in the prowl car for a trip to KCH’s sixth floor. Sutton got behind the driver’s wheel while Shaffer was assisting Anna into the back seat. Suddenly, she changed her mind. She wrapped a big arm around Shaffer and began dragging him down the sidewalk while saying “little man, you’re cute.” Sutton had to jump out of the car, run and grab the back of Shaffer’s gun belt and pull him free. Anna kept walking down the street. The two Larrys just looked at each other and returned to the squad car and drove away. Mission accomplished with discretion, if not as planned.

After another four years, the pair returned to the South Precinct. By this time, Pat Fitzsimmons was the Chief. Containment and negotiations became SOP to handle barricaded suspects. The South end had a well-known thug with a street name of “Crazy Horse”. He locked himself in his apartment in West Seattle. The police were called. Containment was started, negotiators were notified and SWAT alerted. Larry Sutton called the dispatcher Gene Lawson #3887 and asked if Gene could transfer him into the suspect’s land line, because he had dealt with Crazy Horse many times. Gene called in to Crazy Horse, explaining Larry was going to take over the scene and ultimately come and get him. Crazy Horse replied, “Okay, okay, I come down if you get rid of Sutton now. And I must see him leave.” Larry left the scene as he turned and waved bye. Crazy Horse surrendered. Negotiator and SWAT cancelled.

Larry always backed up his squad mates, but occasionally – okay, maybe more than occasionally, he would soup up the call again as a joke. Some of his squad mates got tired of his shtick. So, one of them borrowed his name tag, put it on and went down to Alki Beach, being rude and crude to the beach bums at closing time. About a month later, the complaints started rolling in. Larry was at the squad coffee shop bemoaning about not being able to remember any of these incidents and there were so many. Then he noticed the name tag - his own - on the officer across the table from him.

In the late 1980s, Larry transferred to Street Vice. He was a natural. There was a real savvy prostitute that most Street Vice officers could only arrest twice before she had them pegged. Larry got her four times. The last time, she looked in the car, saw through his disguise, and said, “you’re Sutton.” Larry didn’t say a word, he just began making up sign language. She did understand this (made up) sign language, but it threw her off guard. Eventually he raised his leg and pointed to his tennis shoes’ logo brand which was “Head”. This company, now defunct, also made skis and other sports equipment. When she saw the logo, she said, “Oh, you want head, that’s $20.” O and A completed. Larry arrested her.

In 1990, while visiting a friend in Communications, he met a dispatcher. Larry introduced himself by his 938 radio call sign. She introduced herself as Operator 51. This started their 27 fun-filled years together.

Larry’s injuries forced his retirement in 1992, after 26 years of service. But he could not just sit home. He got a job loading and delivering car transmissions to repair shops. One day, his 26-year-old boss called him saying he could not listen to his portable radio while making the delivery run. Larry told him, “I did it for years in a police car and never missed a radio call. And I haven’t missed a call here, and never failed to make a delivery or be late on a delivery.” The boss said, “I don’t care, I’ll fire you.” Larry said, “No, you can’t because I just quit a minute ago.” He then parked his truck on the street and walked away, called his wife, and got a ride back home. Then he went to work driving for the Blood Bank (now called the Blood Works.) He drove from Portland to the Canadian border. That’s how he learned about Sequim on the peninsula. He and his wife Mimi moved there.

Larry was known both on and off the Department as a friend and mentor.  He could do just about anything and was always there when needed.

Larry is survived by his wife, Miriam (Mimi.) She said her happiest 27 years were with Larry. He loved his large family – his daughter Janet; sons Rick, Dan, James, David, and Brian; and 15 grand and 14 great-grandchildren.