Police: Sergeant's death accidental

Warren 'Tom' Bates, 55, dies Thursday at his home

Posted: Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Juneau Police Department experienced a big loss with the death of Sgt. Warren "Tom" Bates on Thursday, Chief Greg Browning said Tuesday.

"He was the type of officer that would go out to a scene and be able to calm people down with just his demeanor," Browning said. "He could put things at ease. He had that kind of ability. He had a great reputation in the community and the department."

The department announced Tuesday that Bates, 55, was found dead shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday at his home on Chelsea Court in the Mendenhall Valley. An autopsy was conducted Monday, but results of the cause of death will not be available for approximately eight weeks.

"The preliminary indications are that it was an accidental death," Browning said. "There wasn't any sign of foul play. It was in his own house."

Department spokesman Sgt. Dave Campbell said the investigation is ongoing and the case will not be closed until the results come back from the Medical Examiner's Office in Anchorage.

"We want to make sure that we do the family right by not jumping to any conclusions," he said.

Bates' fellow officers were notified last week and the department has been doing its best to cope with the loss, Campbell said.

"The people here at the department have been notified and we're trying to work through it because it's always a shock when someone goes suddenly unexpected like that," he said.

The Juneau Police Department hired Bates in September 2002. He worked as a patrol officer for about five years before being promoted to sergeant in April 2007. He was a member of the city's Graffiti Task Force and worked to help reduce vandalism in the community, Browning said.

Bates had gained a lot of experience as a police officer prior to moving to Juneau, spending 17 years in law enforcement in Texas before relocating to Alaska.

"He had been an officer for a long time," Browning said. "He was already an experienced officer when he came to Juneau."

Bates was scheduled to take on a new responsibility in January as the Professional Standards Sergeant. His new role would have included more office work on issues such as training, accreditation and some internal affairs functions, Browning said.

"I just talked to him the day before he died and talked to him about the challenges he was going to face on that assignment," he said. "He was really excited about it, so it's a shame he didn't get to realize that goal."

Bates was one of seven sergeants working for JPD. The position could take months to fill, Campbell said.

Memorial services for Bates are pending.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or by e-mail at eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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