Hundreds of people, from the Plateau and beyond, attended the police procession and candlelight vigil for Bonney Lake police officer James “Jimmy” Larsen and city resident Zach Roundtree last week.
On March 3, Larsen and Roundtree were snowmobiling with two friends in the northern portion of Esmeralda Peak, about 20 miles northeast of Cle Elum, Washington, when an avalanche fell on the group around noon.
Despite difficulties in communication in such a rural area, search and rescue crew were able to locate Larsen, Roundtree, and Bonney Lake resident Kyle Ottwell, who were all fully buried by the avalanche. Ottwell was airlifted to Harborview Hospital.
Also located was Ryan Journey, who was only partially buried. The Bonney Lake resident was able to dig himself out of the snow and suffered only minor injuries. Before rescue crews arrived, Journey freed Roundtree from the snow and attempted to resuscitate him.
The Bonney Lake Police Department arranged an escort to bring Larsen, 41, and Roundtree, 27, back to the Plateau on March 6. Officers drove the 5-hour round trip journey to pick up Larsen and Roundtree in Ellensburg and brought them to Weeks’ Funeral Home in Buckley, the city Larsen called home.
A line of police vehicles and ambulances drove somberly up the funeral home driveway, past dozens of first responders, family members and friends. Overhead, the American flag flew lightly in the breeze.
When the procession ended, the crowd moved to the back of the funeral home, saluting Larsen and Roundtree as they were moved into the building.
Larsen served with the BLPD for 14 years, and with the Yelm Police Department before that.
Roundtree was a Air Force veteran and the son of longtime Bonney Lake Public Works employee Curt Roundtree.
The city of Bonney Lake organized a candlelight vigil at dusk on March 8 at Allan Yorke Park, gathering under the flag being flown at half mast.
Sumner Police Department Chaplain Bob Ihler helped run the vigil, inviting up friends and family to a stage to remember the deceased.
Bonney Lake Mayor Neil Johnson was one of the first to address the crowd, after a small group of students sang “Danny Boy,” by Eva Cassidy.
“What’s been going on the past few days is something I’ll never forget, the way the community’s come out to respect and embrace the lives of Jimmy and Zach,” Johnson said, adding he knew Larsen and met Roundtree on a few occasions, but after the time he’s spent with both of their friends and families, he’s gotten to really know both of them. “The one thing I’m going to go away with, for me, and put in my daily calendar is what I heard both of these family members say about Jimmy and Zach, is that they lived life. Don’t let life live you.”
Curt Roundtree thanked the many people who have supported him in this hellish time, and especially thanked Journey for trying to rescue his son.
“Ryan, you are the utmost man of a man, and so much respect for me and my family for what you tried to do for my son,” he said. “Stop beating yourself up. You did what you could do. You don’t know how much we appreciate that.”
Bonney Lake Police Chief Dana Powers talked about Larsen’s penchant for practical jokes and keeping life fun.
“What an amazing community we live in. The support for our department, our fallen officer, Zachary, it’s been overwhelming,” she said. “The stories that have come out have kept everything really, really jovial. It’s been easier because of the humor, and because of who Jimmy was.”
Lori Murphy, Larsen’s sister, was the last to speak. She told those attending she expected to speak on the Allan Yorke Park stage, which Larsen helped build.
“James would think that was funny — ‘good luck ever having to rip that out,’” she said, eliciting a laugh from the crowd.
Murphy said the day before he died, James flew his last hours to get his pilot’s license.
“He got the last thing checked off his list,” Murphy continued. “I consider this a happy thing, that he did everything he wanted to do. He didn’t live life with any regrets.”