Deputy Mike Estes Down (Washington)
Feb. 15--The around-the-clock hospital vigil for the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office reached a sad end Wednesday.
Deputy Mike Estes, 43, died at 10:30 a.m. at Kadlec Medical Center in Richland from injuries he suffered in a traffic accident while on patrol eight days earlier. He never regained consciousness.
Estes was responding to a Burbank 911 call with his emergency lights on when his patrol car was hit broadside by a loaded flatbed truck as he attempted to cross Highway 12 at the Highway 124 intersection.
"He was a man of big stature. But yet he had the gentleness of a teddy bear," said Sheriff Mike Humphreys during a news conference to announce the death.
Law enforcement was a midcareer change for Estes, Humphreys said.
He joined the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office in July 2005 and had moved to Burbank in October to become the third resident officer there.
He was too new to Burbank for residents there to fully know what an excellent law enforcement officer they have lost, said Humphreys, who struggled to maintain his composure.
Estes brought maturity and a wealth of common sense to the job, the sheriff said.
Plus, at about 6 feet 4 inches tall and 250 pounds, "he had good officer presence when he arrived on the scene," Humphreys said.
Estes was born in Hermiston and graduated from Valley Christian High School in Spokane in 1982. He was interested in becoming a minister and studied religious education at Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta for two years, Humphreys said.
Instead, he joined the Army, serving from 1984 until 1996 in New York, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Germany and Egypt, among other assignments.
He enjoyed work as a helicopter mechanic before being assigned to a position as a recruiter in Menomonie, Wis. At the time of his discharge, he had earned the rank of specialist E-4.
Estes worked various jobs in Wisconsin after leaving the Army, including private security and a correctional officer, before deciding to move back to Washington in 2002 to be closer to his parents, Orville and Judi Estes, and two sisters.
His parents were living in Walla Walla then, and Estes became a correctional officer in January 2003 at the Washington State Penitentiary.
Humphreys remembered asking Estes why he wanted to become a sheriff's deputy when Estes interviewed for the job in 2005.
Estes replied that he wanted to work with the public rather than inmates. He wanted to be part of the community, Humphreys said. He attended the Basic Law Enforcement Academy in Burien, graduating in May 2006.
"He was a fine officer," the sheriff said. "He represented law enforcement well. He was part of our family. And he will be missed."
He is survived by his parents, who now live in Spokane, a sister in Sprague and a sister in Edwall.
Estes enjoyed spending time with his family and hunting and fishing, Humphreys said. He also was a member of the Oregon National Guard after joining Detachment 1, 1186T -- Military Police based at the Milton-Freewater Armory when he moved to Walla Walla. He spent several weeks with the National Guard in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.
"He was an all-around good guy," Humphreys said.
The investigation into the accident by the Washington State Patrol is continuing. The state patrol continues to look for witnesses to the accident or people who know of anyone who was there. They may call Detective Sgt. Jerry Cooper at 360-805-1192 or Detective Curt Landines at 360-805-1160.