CANNON BEACH — Cannon Beach Police Officer Lewis “Lew” Holbrook, who will retire from the department in July after serving 19 years as a patrolman, is not one to raise his banner.
But as the officer who in May helped Federal Bureau of Investigation agents find and detain an Everett, Wash., man now charged with kidnapping and sexually abusing a 15-year-old California girl, Holbrook cannot avoid the limelight entirely.
After a passerby spotted the suspect — who had a national felony warrant out for his arrest — and alerted the police department, Holbrook and an FBI agent located the man behind a locked gate in a privately owned wooded area south of town.
Holbrook, the arresting officer, said he and the agent discovered the suspect sitting on a log. As they approached him, the man made no attempt to flee and, when asked his name, simply answered, “I’m the guy you’re looking for.”
Asked about his involvement in the pursuit, Holbrook remembered something his old boss, former Cannon Beach Police Chief Gene Halliburton, told him: “Everything in life is a matter of timing.”
Holbrook, 59, has pretty much held only two jobs in his life, he said.
Before joining the Cannon Beach Police Department on July 1, 1996, Holbrook served 18 years in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps. He became a commissioned officer in 1977 as a 22-year-old Oregon State University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Holbrook, whose father was a career military officer, naturally gravitated toward the military. Born in a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, Holbrook grew up primarily in the country with his mother, a German woman, and his grandparents in a farm village. His father, who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, was often deployed overseas.
A fluent speaker of German, Holbrook received most of his assignments in Europe, where he coordinated often with the German police and carried out law enforcement operations. As a commissioned officer, he was stationed in several German cities throughout his tenure.
“It was quite a bit of a benefit to be able to communicate clearly in German,” he said. “It brought about a lot of personal relationships, which often help when you’re trying to get the professional stuff done.”
He did a tour of Frankfurt as a company commander, and another in Fulda, where his regiment was stationed on the East-West German border. During his Fulda assignment, “we were pretty much the speed bump in case the Russians decided to come across the border,” he said.
In 1991, as the Gulf War got underway, he was deployed to Saudi Arabia with the 2nd Armored Division (Forward), serving as a senior law enforcement adviser to the division commander during Operation Desert Storm. His unit provided security to more than 4,000 soldiers set up in a camp city and did a road march with other combat units into southern Iraq.
After U.S. forces defeated the Iraqi Army at the Battle of Norfolk, Holbrook found himself in charge of more than 600 prisoners of war and their medical care.
“Once we have them, we’re in charge of their welfare,” he said. The prisoners were soon transported to a prisoner-of-war camp.
When Holbrook retired from the U.S. Army in 1995 and faced the prospect of a second career, he chose to stick with law enforcement.
Because his family lived in Oregon, Holbrook applied for jobs at the Cannon Beach Police and Portland Police Bureau simultaneously.
On the day Cannon Beach Police Chief Dave Rouse swore him in, Holbrook received a call back from Portland. But Holbrook chose to follow through with his commitment to Cannon Beach.
“And I never regretted the decision,” he said. “Officers in Portland deal with bad people all the time — pretty much most of the time, depending on what part of Portland you work in. But, being in Cannon Beach, we deal with good people most of the time. And that is really nice. That makes the job worthwhile. We only have to deal with the bad people occasionally.”
But Cannon Beach is not without its share of criminality: murders, sex crimes, drug use and domestic disturbance calls. The oft-repeated line that nothing much happens in small towns, he said, is pure misconception.
“Pretty much everything that happens everywhere happens in our town, just not as frequently,” he said, “which makes it a great town. But it does happen.”
While training new officers, Holbrook tries to instill in them a philosophy of courtesy and respect, to teach them the importance of interacting positively with those they police.
After pulling someone over for speeding, for example, he won’t order drivers to “Slow down!” Rather, he’ll tell them, “What I’m going to ask you to do is, please, wherever you’re going, get there safe.”
If he has to be firm, he will, but, if it’s a matter of getting someone to follow the law, “I’ve always felt that it’s so much easier to treat people with respect and to treat them nicely,” he said.
Holbrook — who lives in Seaside with Anka Holbrook, his wife of 20 years with whom he speaks only German — has three patrol days left, and the third one falls on Sandcastle Day (June 20). He arranged it that way, just so he can spend his final patrol day working with all of the other officers.
“Usually, when you do patrol work, you’re pretty much a force of one out there; you don’t interact too much with the other guys,” he said. “This will be my last chance to be with them all.”
Cannon Beach Police Chief Jason Schermerhorn said the department is “going to miss Lew dearly.”
“He was just a genuine guy, and he always did what he was asked to. Very intelligent man, but also, with his police work and with other things that he did, he was always very clever,” he said. “That’s something we’ll miss, is his wisdom in the department.”
“Cannon Beach is a special place. I feel very, very fortunate to have been selected as part of the Cannon Beach PD,” Holbrook said. “It’s been a wonderful 19 years.”
— Erick Bengel