Richard McLachlin #3398, retired Seattle Police Helicopter Pilot passed away on June 7, 2017 at the age of 72.
Rick’s father was a business executive who led Boeing’s Super Sonic Transport (SST) project. It was competing against the British French Consortium Eurobus. This project required the family to move frequently. Rich was born in Auburn. Then the family moved to Bellevue. During his high school years, the family moved to Denver, Colorado. There, Rick attended and graduated from Lake Wood High. Then the family moved to Mt. Vernon where Rick attended Skagit Valley Junior College for a year. Again, his Dad was transferred, this time to Chicago. Rick was tired of moving, so he joined the Army in January 1964.
He volunteered for the precursory units for the Rangers. He was assigned to Germany to face off against the Soviet forces. After two years of advanced infantry training, he applied to helicopter flight training. He passed and was assigned to Vietnam in October 1967 as part of the 101st Aviation Battalion. He finished his active duty in January 1970.
Three months later, he joined the Seattle Police Department. He worked Patrol for a few months before attending the Academy at Providence Heights in Issaquah. When he finished BLET, he was permanently assigned to 3rd West Central in April of 1971. Now that he had a fixed shift and training out of the way, he joined the Air National Guard. One year later, he transferred to Harbor to fly helicopters for the next four years. During one if his shifts, he saved a struggling swimmer off Alki by using the helicopter’s rotor wash to push the swimmer back to shore.
When the helicopter program was slashed from the Department’s budget in 1975, Rick was assigned to 1st Watch Wallingford. One morning, he and Joe Parks #3318 were dispatched to a robbery at the Albertson’s store on the east side of Green Lake because a morning deliveryman saw a suspect with a long gun going through the store’s safe. As the deliveryman backed out of the store, he saw another suspect herding fourteen store employees and customers into the walk-in freezer. Once out of the store, the witness found a phone booth in the store’s parking lot and called 911. Rick and Joe responded. They freed the hostages, protected the money, and drove off the suspects – old fashioned rapid intervention. Both officers were keenly aware their .38 revolvers were no match against the suspects’ long guns. In fact, one of the suspects fired live rifle rounds at Joe, narrowly missing him. The suspects were apprehended a short time later. It turns out they were suspects in several other robberies in Oregon.
On another call with Ken Zarko #3312, Rick was interviewing several suspicious young men. They were put in the interview position with hands on the prowl car’s roof. One man was fidgety and took his hands off the roof, trying to face the officers. After Rick issued several warnings to resume to the position, he turned to Ken saying, “What’s wrong with this guy? He doesn’t seem to understand.” Ken replied, “I do.” Then Ken grabbed the suspect by the back of his collar and belt, and planted the suspect bodily on the squad car roof. The suspect’s hands, face, chest, and stomach were firmly planted on the car’s roof. Only his legs were hanging free down alongside the car door. Now the suspect understood, so the investigation continued uninterrupted.
In 1980, Rick was assigned to 1st West in David Sector. In the following months, he responded to a robbery at Tower Records at 5th and Mercer. The suspect and Rick got into a fight. The suspect managed to gain control of Rick’s sidearm. The suspect then ran out of the store, right into the arms of the backup units. They commanded him to “drop the gun” and “throw it on the ground”. Rick, who was still chasing the suspect out the exit, yelled back, “Don’t make him throw it down, it’s my personally owned gun”.
During these years, Rick was fulfilling his National Guard obligation. In May 1980, he was in Yakima for the annual flight training, when Mt. St. Helens erupted. He spent several weeks on search and rescue, flying in search parties. In 1990, he flew aerial security and escort for the Good Will Games. In 1995, during the Wenatchee fires, he flew fire bosses and work crews to various fire lines. When not flying, he was the captain of the State’s National Guard Rifle and Pistol Teams for several years. Both teams went to the Nationals.
In September of 1997, after 33 years in the military, Rick retired as a CW4. The following month, he retired from the Department after 27 years in law enforcement. In April of this year, two generals presented Rick with the Washington State Legion of Merit Award for all his contribution to the National Guard.
In retirement, when not driving a school bus; which he saw as a reason to get up in the morning, he enjoyed his hobbies. They were hunting, fishing, playing tennis, bird watching and riding his Harley. In 2005, he and his wife Louise began RVing around the country.
Rick is survived by his wife, Louise; sons Richard and Michael; daughter Jennifer; and two granddaughters, Margaret, and Abby.