The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department SWAT Team is really more like a family. They represent “the best of the best” of our deputies and train extensively as a team. Like a family, they have each other’s backs. They also have special equipment, tactics and personnel – including negotiators, a K-9 and a doctor.
I have seen them in action firsthand – both in training and on a callout. Some of you may be surprised to know that one of the benefits of all that training, teamwork and preparation is that they rarely fire their weapons on a call – despite what you see on the TV show SWAT. Most of the time, the team’s presence and approach convinces the “bad guy” to surrender without a fight – and that is the goal.
However, every single one of their callouts is very dangerous. They work hard to reduce the risk to everyone involved – but they cannot eliminate it.
On Tuesday, our SWAT Team was called out to arrest a violent repeat felon who had failed to show for his trial. Sadly, he chose to fight. He died in the ensuing shootout, but not before shooting two of our best.
Sergeant Rich Scaniffe, the SWAT Team leader, was seriously wounded in the leg – but thankfully he should recover.
Tragically, Deputy Dom Calata’s wound was much more grievous and, despite heroic efforts by the medical team at St. Joseph Hospital, he passed away Wednesday.
Everyone who knew him was devastated. His love for his family and heart for service to his community were at the very core of who he was.
I featured Dom in my November 9, 2018 blog focused on Veterans Day. The video in that blog gives great insight into who he was, his character and the motivation for his service. I strongly encourage you to watch it.
Additionally, you can see that Dom was a leader – it was readily apparent to those who talked with him, including me. He lived by his own advice – “humble roots and aggressive goals.” His leadership was also apparent in his service on our SWAT team.
The planning for Dom’s memorial service has begun. We will do our absolute best to appropriately honor his sacrifice and express our community’s deepest gratitude and sorrow to his wife and son.
However, nothing we say or do will be adequate to the task. His sacrifice and his family’s loss are both too great.
As for Dom, even in his death he is serving – giving life to others as an organ donor.
Take care of each other,