CRESTVIEW — Nine years after two Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office deputies were slain in the line of duty, a solemn post was placed on their agency's Facebook page.
"Today please take a moment to remember and honor the service of OCSO Deputies Burt Lopez and Skip York, our fallen brothers who died in the line of duty on this day in 2009 while attempting to arrest a domestic violence suspect near Crestview," the post read. "They are in our hearts and memories today, and every day — as are their families."
It was April 25, 2009 when Warren “Skip” York and Burt Lopez approached Joshua Cartwright near his pickup truck at a local gun club to arrest him on a domestic violence warrant.
The two Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputies, armed with Tasers, prepared for a non-lethal confrontation when they spotted him just before 1 p.m., according to then-Sheriff Ed Spooner. The 28-year-old Cartwright had no visible guns.
When York and Lopez tried to handcuff Cartwright, he didn’t cooperate. The deputies stunned him with a Taser, and he fell down. What happened next shook the community.
In a flash, Cartwright stood up with a gun that had been concealed. He started firing at Lopez, then held the gun behind his head and fired at York.
Lopez and Cartwright took positions on opposite sides of a patrol car and shot at each other until Lopez was knocked down by a bullet to the left shoulder. Cartwright then walked up to the deputy and shot him in the head.
Witnesses said York ran toward the passenger side of Cartwright’s truck during the shootout. The witnesses said they next heard gunshots and saw Cartwright drive away.
Cartwright fired at deputies while fleeing on U.S. Highway 90 toward DeFuniak Springs. Mark Illich, a witness who saw Cartwright approaching, said “he seemed calm as a cucumber.”
After Cartwright swerved around two spike strips, a patrol car ran into his truck, causing it to flip over several times before it landed on its roof. The carnage ended after Cartwright killed himself with a gunshot to the head.
Both York and Lopez were alive when they were taken by helicopter to Sacred Heart Hospital. They died that afternoon.
Michelle Lopez told the Daily News at the time that she remembered her husband for his friendliness and humor. She said anyone could talk to him about anything.
The tragedy brought her together with York’s widow, Janel, whom she considers a sister.
“I guess we’re bonded for life,” Lopez said.
Cartwright had a history of domestic violence. He never took a court-ordered anger management class after he was charged with domestic battery in a November 2008 incident. Cartwright also thought the U.S. government was out to get him.
Spooner said there were too many conflicting witness reports to determine whether different procedures would have prevented the two deputies’ deaths.
“We try to teach, always be aware, always be careful, but you never know what you’re going to encounter,” Spooner said.