On Sunday morning, November 2, the mountain community of Weaverville, and the County of Trinity, with its fewer than 14,000 residents, was shocked and deeply saddened with the loss of one of its California Highway Patrol officers assigned to the Weaverville office.
Officer Robert Coulter, a 39 year old, 14 year veteran of the California Highway Patrol was discovere4d by a brother officer lying in the front seat of his assigned patrol vehicle parked in the CHP office parking lot. Coulter had obviously suffered a fatal gunshot wound.
A follow-up investigation by the CHP and Trinity County Sheriff’s Department concluded that Officer Coulter had apparently been positioning his assigned shot gun in the locking device located in the front seat of his patrol vehicle when the shot gun accidentally fired, pellets striking Coulter and killing him instantly.
The loss of a peace officer under any circumstance is always a tragic event. In a small, tight knit community like Weaverville, where everyone knows everyone else on a first name basis and locally assigned peace officers are considered to be members of the family, the loss becomes much more personal and the trauma is magnified ten-fold.
Sgt. Steve Howard, Coulter’s direct supervisor, who described himself as Coulter’s “Den Dad”, praised Coulter as being “the epitomy of what a peace officer should be, he was outgoing, friendly and loved being a highway patrolman”. Kelly Coulter, Rob’s wife described him as her “social butterfly”, never too busy to stop and talk to people. If he saw a kid that he thought might be in trouble he would not hesitate to stop and ask, “hey, are you on the right path?”
Further attesting to Officer Coulter’s public relations skills is his personnel file, which contains a volume of letters from grateful citizens commending him for his help and assistance.
Rob Coulter obviously set his sights on becoming a peace officer at an early age. In high school he was actively engaged in the schools “Police Explorer program” and upon graduation from high school he served for five years in the military as a military policeman. Upon discharge from the military he immediately pursued his dream of becoming a California Highway Patrolman. He began his career in the Department he loved on December 21, 1989.
On the afternoon of November 7, an over-flow gathering of peace officers, family and friends crowded the Veteran’s Memorial Hall in Weaverville to offer a final farewell to Rob Coulter.
Reverend Bill Gillis, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Redding described Coulter as “a fun loving man who never met a stranger. He was the kind of Patrolman who believed not only in saving lives, but enriching them”. CHP Commissioner Spike Helmick praised Officer Coulter As “a perfect fit for the community that he served. He loved the mountains, the rural setting and the people that resided there, and the people loved him”.
Officer Coulter is survived by his wife Kelly and his two young children, ages 10 and 14.