Lynden, WA – Lynden Police Department (LPD) Interim Chief Michael Knapp died in the line of duty on Wednesday, one day after he was struck by a truck while crossing the street.
The 79-year-old police chief was on his way to a city council meeting where the three candidates vying for the permanent LPD chief position were being announced, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
As he crossed the traffic lanes in the 200-block of Fourth Street shortly after sunset, a vehicle traveling without its headlights on crashed into him.
Chief Knapp was not in a crosswalk at the time of the collision, The Bellingham Herald reported.
The 19-year-old driver of the 1988 Chevrolet GMT-400 that struck him remained at the scene and was cooperative with investigators.
The driver is not expected to be criminally charged.
Chief Knapp was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital with broken bones and extensive head and spinal trauma, Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman told The Bellingham Herald.
He was subsequently airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Chief Knapp succumbed to his injuries on Wednesday.
“Michael was a family man that touched many and will be sorely missed,” his family said in a statement to The Bellingham Herald. “He offered so much to his family, friends and community.”
Chief Knapp, a U.S. Army veteran, served with many departments throughout his long career in law enforcement, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
He worked for the Milpitas Police Department and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office in California, and later served as the Medina Police Department chief from 1998 until 2003.
In 2005, he was appointed as the chief of police in Ferndale, Washington, where he remained until his retirement in 2016.
Chief Knapp also worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and spent eight months serving the Blaine Police Department, KOMO reported.
“Chief Michael Knapp embodies the best in public service,” Ferndale City Administrator Jori Burnett said, according to The Bellingham Herald. “For over a decade, he served the city of Ferndale with honor and distinction, bringing his years of experience to elevate the work of the Ferndale Police Department. We are holding him and [wife] Nancy in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
Chief Knapp had been serving as the LPD’s interim chief for the past six months, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
“Anytime you have a community member injured in an incident like this, it’s devastating,” Trooper Axtman told The Bellingham Herald. “When it’s a leader like Chief Knapp, it impacts people from various connected communities, as well.”
“Chief Knapp has worked extensively in law enforcement with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of other officers and community members, and this is just devastating for this community,” she added.
Ferndale Mayor Jon Mutchler said he has known Chief Knapp for over 10 years, KOMO reported.
“Chief Knapp was one of the few people I’ve ever known in my life that when you’re around him…you step up your game,” Mutchler explained. “You’re a better person. I’m a better man.”
The mayor noted that Chief Knapp was also a beloved member of the community, KING reported.
Chief Knapp was an FBI National Academy graduate, a Foreign Service Institute graduate, and a member of the California Bar Association, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
“For all the experience he had, [he was] just a very humble man,” Lynden Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Gary Vis told KOMO. “The man had an impact.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Lynden Police Department Interim Chief Michael Knapp, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.