Over three days, Patch is bringing you the story of Gina Miller, the girlfriend of slain Washington State Patrol Trooper Tony Radulescu. His death following a traffic stop Feb. 23 on Highway 16 near Port Orchard captivated the region, but it was much more personal to the DuPont woman.
Radulescu was the man she loved.
Patch recently sat down with Miller for an interview. Based on that, along with news reports and court documents, we're bringing her story of love, tragedy and determination.
Tony Radulescu was the first Romanian immigrant to be commissioned a trooper in Washington state. He spoke five languages: Romanian, English, Korean, Italian and enough Russian to get by.
A veteran of the Gulf War, Radulescu was genuinely interested in making sure the people he pulled over understood why their bad judgments weren’t worth repeating.
“Have you stopped to think about if you crash going 20 miles over the speed limit and you hit someone with a baby in the back of the car?” his girlfriend remembers him once asking a violator. “You know what’s going to happen right?”
That was Radulescu's gift. He, more than most with the Washington State Patrol, could turn a traffic stop into a learning moment. Everyone from troopers to the governor said the same thing: Radulescu wanted to do more than just issue a ticket.
To Miller, that was just part of what drew her to him.
Miller loved Radulescu’s inner glow. It radiated every time he turned her way. Both had been married. Neither was anxious to do it again. Both had children. His was a grown son who had enlisted at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Hers were a teenage son and a young daughter.
Miller lived in Puyallup when they met. He lived in Port Orchard. They made the hour drive nearly every weekend. By 2010, that first semi-innocent chat at the fair had blossomed into a committed relationship.
* * *
Joshua Blake held the gun to his head as county SWAT officers approached.
It had been almost eight hours since Radulescu walked up to his pickup, eight hours since Blake pulled the trigger and narrowed his whole world to a single point.
After leaving Radelescu on the side of Highway 16, Blake led authorities on a manhunt from Port Orchard to Belfair, and then finally to a mossy, moldering trailer on Southeast Scofield Road, less than 8 miles from where it all started.
The mother of Blake’s 3-year-old daughter, Jessi Leigh Foster, stood outside the trailer as the SWAT team approached.
Blake squeezed the trigger.
Foster ran back inside screaming. She came back outside and fell to the ground.
Inside, 28-year-old Blake lay mortally wounded. He was right about this: He wasn’t going back to jail. He died four hours later at Tacoma General Hospital.
* * *
Less than a week after Trooper Radulescu’s death, thousands of television viewers watched the live feed as the hearse left in Lakewood.
His patrol car was next in the procession. The department placed a black stripe across the WSP badge on its front doors; “Trooper Tony” was painted on the side of its trunk.
The procession would eventually grow to include vehicles from an earlier procession in Kitsap County and hundreds of other patrol cars from as far away as Canada that had made their way from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Mary Parsons of University Place wiped her eyes as the procession passed. She remembered Radulescu from when he issued her a ticket for doing 70 mph on a 60-mph highway four years earlier.
If she had been doing 69 mph, he could have cut her a break, she remembered his explaining. “He smiled the whole time,” Parsons told a reporter who pulled her aside for an interview.
“What can you do? I know I was wrong so I took the ticket.”
“I feel sorry for his family.”
Friends say this was typical of Radulescu: He could make an admirer out of a ticket target.
* * *
In Kitsap County Superior Court, Steven Michael B. Banks sat awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to second-degree rendering criminal assistance to Blake after the shooting.
Banks lived in the trailer in which Blake ended his own life--eight hours after ending Radelescu’s.
At the sentencing, Miller spoke directly to Banks–even though he appeared via closed-circuit television from the Kitsap County Jail.
She held a wooden box with Radulescu’s ashes. It’s all she had left of him.
“I do not condone what you did,” Miller said to Banks, 43. “It is unforgivable, and there is nothing you can say or do that would justify your actions.”
“All I can say to you is that when your time comes, you will be judged, and how you proceed with your life for the good or the bad. This will determine where you go. It is not my place to judge you but to tell you how I feel about you.”
Said Miller: “The Lord will be the final judge of if you go to heaven or hell.”
Despite pleas by attorneys from both sides for four months in Kitsap County Jail, the judge sentenced him to a year following Miller’s testimony.
* * *
Sitting in a Lakewood coffee shop in a blue denim jacket, Miller wears a photo pin of Radulescu. A black bracelet on her left wrist reads, “You Are Not Forgotten.” Another on her right lists his last day, or end of watch: 2-23-12.
Miller says she will be his voice. She said his death will not go unmarked in state law. She will fight for him and other fallen cops and their families.
Coming Up in the Series:
June 12: Gina Miller met Tony Radulescu during the Puyallup Fair. Three years later, they said goodbye for the last time over the phone.
Today: During their time together, Miller and Radulescu did everything from ride quads to driving to Oregon for daytrips to cheering for the NY Giants in the Super Bowl. She lost all of that when Joshua Blake, the man whom authorities say killed Radulescu, pulled the trigger.
June 20: The people connected to Joshua Blake hours after he killed Radulescu are making their way through the courts, but Miller says the penalties are not enough. The pain of losing Radulescu is still raw, and she wants to make sure no other cops or their families have to experience what she has.