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TROOPER TONY REMEMBERED (PART ONE): "I've Gotta Go Stop Some Cars"

Washington State Patrol Trooper Tony Radulescu always called girlfriend Gina Miller before and after his shift as long as they had been dating. At least that was the case until Feb. 23.

The Series:

Over three days, Patch is bringing you the story of Gina Miller, the girlfriend of slain . 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.


Part One:

It always was the same line when Tony needed to end their calls and head out on patrol. “I’ve gotta go stop some cars, I’ll talk to you when I get home.”

“OK, honey,” Gina Miller said. “Be safe. I love you.”

This same exchange, regular as rain, ended hundreds of calls between Washington State Patrol Trooper Tony Radulescu and his girlfriend of three years, Gina. He always called before each patrol. He always called after.

Miller hung up. She climbed into bed in the comfortable DuPont home where she and Radulescu would alternate every other weekend. She’d been watching the evening news. The day’s top story involved an 8-year-old girl who was shot in her own classroom in neighboring Kitsap County.

Miller grew up in Kitsap not far from the school. Radulescu patrolled there. She wondered if it was a school where Tony had given one of his countless safety presentations? This struck too close to home, she thought.

She turned off the TV and went to sleep. Four and a half hours later, the doorbell would announce just how much closer tragedy can strike.

*   *   *

Forty miles away, Joshua Blake pulled over to the side of the road in his green Ford pickup truck. Moments earlier, a state trooper had switched on the lights.

Blake, 28, high on meth and carrying a history of drugs and violence, reached for his glove box and gave his passenger, Megan Mollet, this instruction:

“Roll down the window and turn your head.”

Blake, at this traffic stop on Highway 16 near Gorst, already decided he wasn’t going back to jail.

The cop walked up to the window.

*    *    *

Most people don’t go to the Puyallup Fair looking to find love, but that’s exactly what happened when Miller and Radulescu worked the WSP booth Sept. 12, 2009.

They both knew of each other; they had just never met. The prior year, during a Christmas party for her district headquartered off Highway 512 near Lakewood, a camera captured Miller donning a goofy face.

The guy who snapped the picture was Radulescu’s roommate, and the Romanian-born cop took special notice when he later saw the picture.

“Oh, who’s that?” he asked his roommate, Richard.

“Oh, that’s a CO in District 1,” his roommate responded.

The picture made for a great conversation starter months later at the fair, when Miller and Radulescu were assigned to the same shift. Radulescu’s duty was to talk to kids, hand out temporary tattoos and coloring pages.

“Oh, I know you,” he said with a tinge of Romanian in his voice.

Miller’s eyes immediately shifted to his nametag on his uniform.

“You know what,” she said, “I know you too. I’ve heard about you from Richard.”

Over time, Miller became smitten with Radulescu and his story. He emigrated from communist Romania to the U.S. with his family in the early 1980’s when he was 14.

After graduating from Trenton High School in New Jersey, he enlisted in the Army and was stationed at what was then called Fort Lewis. He did tours overseas and served in the first Gulf War.

Radulescu viewed the military as a way to repay his adopted country for the opportunities he never could have gotten in Romania. Even when his active duty service was over after eight years, he eventually re-enlisted as a member of the Army reserve, a status he proudly held until he retired from the service in 2008.

Radulescu was also a popular WSP trooper in Kitsap County, which coincidentally enough was where Miller was born and raised.

The fair meeting turned into a date, which turned into a relationship, which turned into the connection that each had been looking for.

By February, they were making long-term plans to buy a house in Arizona and open a shop that would serve sandwiches and ice cream.

At least that was their plan until the early hours of Feb. 23.

*   *   *  

The doorbell woke Miller up.  She peered out her window and recognized a face. 

It was her uncle.

Next to him were two people from her office – she worked as a public records officer – along with Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste.

Then she saw the district chaplain standing behind her uncle.

The chaplain.

 

Coming Up in the Series:

Today: Gina Miller met Tony Radulescu during the Puyallup Fair. Three years later, they said goodbye for the last time over the phone.

Tomorrow: 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.

Thursday: 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 Radulesu is still raw, and she wants to make sure no other cops or their families have to experience what she has.

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