Wash. police chief dies after being struck by vehicle
Chief Michael Knapp had a long career serving in law enforcement at national and local levels
Duty Death: Michael Knapp - [Lynden, Washington]
End of Service: 11/06/2019
FERNDALE, Wash. — As a large portion of Whatcom County is reeling from the news that Lynden interim Police Chief Michael Knapp died from injuries he suffered after being struck by a truck while crossing Fourth Street Tuesday night, the law enforcement community he was such a vital part of for so many years took to social media to mourn and remember him.
“Chief Michael Knapp: a storied law enforcement legend, a man of God, a community leader and a very good friend,” Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said in a Facebook post Wednesday evening. “You are missed but will not be forgotten. See you in Heaven.”
Knapp, 79, was struck by a maroon 1988 Chevrolet GMT-400 while crossing the street shortly before 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Lynden, according to the Washington State Patrol release on the incident, which noted that the truck’s headlights were not on at the time of the collision.
Knapp was airlifted to Seattle from St. Joseph’s hospital at approximately 9 p.m. Tuesday, but died Wednesday, according to a release from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
The State Patrol continues to investigate the incident, though Axtman said there are not thought to be any criminal actions by the 19-year-old driver of the truck.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t erase the pain many in the community are feeling after Knapp’s loss.
“Chief Knapp positively impacted the lives of thousands across the decades, both in his numerous public roles in many areas of law enforcement and his private roles as a devoted husband, loving father, caring friend and patient mentor,” the Lynden Chamber of Commerce posted Wednesday.
“While his time serving the Lynden community was short, his contributions will be with us forever, as they will across the many communities he served, within Whatcom County and across the globe. ... While men as good as Chief Knapp may be found upon this earth, a better man will not.”
Knapp’s service began as a commissioned officer in the United States Army, according to a Blaine Police Department release Thursday, Nov. 7.
He then joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a special agent investigating organized crime under J. Edgar Hoover, the release stated. According to Knapp’s memorial page on the Officer Down Memorial Page website, he was a graduate of the 100th session of the FBI National Academy.
He also graduated from the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute and was a member of the California Bar Association, according to the website.
After retiring from the FBI, he served as an officer with the Milpitas (California) Police Department and as a deputy sheriff for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, the website said.
Knapp became the Chief of Police for the City of Medina in 1998, where he served until 2003, the website said.
In September of 2005, Knapp came to Whatcom County when he was appointed Chief of Police in Ferndale.
“We are deeply saddened at the loss of one of our own. ... Our hearts pour out to the Lynden City Police Department, Lynden City, Blaine PD and city, our Ferndale community, and our own city and police staff who served with Chief Knapp for 11 years, but most of all to his family and close friends,” the Ferndale Police Department posted on its Facebook page Wednesday.
Knapp retired as Ferndale Chief in 2016, but a year later he served as interim chief for the Blaine Police Department from November 2017 through July 2018.
“In the nine months that he served as interim chief for the Blaine Police Department, he was able to transform our agency into a better, more open department,” the department said in its release. “He re-forged ties in our community and won over the hearts and minds of everyone who met him. His lasting impact on the police department will be felt for years to come.”
After leaving Blaine, Knapp’s retirement was again short-lived, and he was appointed interim chief in Lynden in anticipation of Police Chief John Billester’s June retirement, according to a story in the Lynden Tribune.
Knapp served there until Tuesday’s tragedy, which occurred while he was on duty and in a business suit.
His loss is felt by law enforcement and community members throughout Whatcom County.
“We are also keeping our brothers and sisters of the Lynden, Blaine, and Ferndale Police departments in our thoughts and hearts during this very tough time and ask you do the same,” the Bellingham Police Department said in a Facebook post Wednesday. “Rest in peace, Chief; we have the watch from here.”
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page website, Knapp is the second member of the Lynden Police Department to die in the line of duty, joining patrolman Jack G. Martin, who died Aug. 9, 1988, of a heart attack.
The website lists 293 line-of-duty deaths in the state of Washington, including eight from Whatcom County agencies.
Words of support for the family and the communities in which Knapp served streamed in on social media from across the state and nation and even overseas.
“There is no incident more traumatic to a law enforcement agency or brotherhood of first responders than the loss of one of their own,” the Lummi Nation Police Department said in a Facebook post about Knapp’s death.
A tweet by the Lynden Chamber of Commerce said that the City of Lynden has requested that flags be flown at half-staff until sunset on the evening of Knapp’s service — a date which has not yet been set.