End of Watch: 11/23/1941
Agency: Pierce County Sheriff’s Department
County: Pierce County
On Sunday, November 23, 1941 at just before noon, Officer Martin Joyce and Officer Paul Trent of the Tacoma Police Department responded to a suicide on the north end of the city. They requested “the lights”—a process where the dispatcher could change the traffic signals on the route to four-way red signals so the officers could pass through safely—for their drive on Pacific Avenue.
At about the same time, Pierce County Deputy Lawrence Bunce and Deputy Arthur Varco were responding to an injury accident on River Road. They were responding from the Pierce County Courthouse at 11th and South G Street and also requested “the lights” as they traveled eastbound on 11th.
Tacoma PD and Pierce County shared radio frequencies, but the Pierce County patrol wagon was parked when the deputies received the call at the courthouse. Between the time the deputies received the call and when they turned on their car they missed the Tacoma officers’ request for the lights. Their request for the lights wasn’t received as the radio tubes were most likely still warming up when they initially called radio.
At the 1100 block of Pacific Avenue, the two patrol wagons collided while both were traveling at a high rate of speed. Officer Trent, Deputy Bunce and Deputy Varco died at the scene. Officer Joyce was transported to the hospital where he died on November 25, 1941.
Deputy Varco served Pierce County Sheriff’s Department for 10 years. He is survived by his wife, son, and daughter.