FEATURED IN BELOW 100
This past month has been a deadly one for law enforcement in this country. A total of 14 officers died as the result of gunfire (9), vehicle incidents (2), heart attacks (2) and an aircraft crash (1). Combined with the 13 officers lost in July, it’s been a devastating summer.
In fact, the losses for the two months of July and August are equal to the combined total of the four preceding months. Think about that for a moment--that means our rate of loss doubled during July and August compared to the preceding four months. We can do better. We must do better.
As you review the losses this month, think objectively and critically as to where we can make improvements and better decisions so that we don’t repeat the mistakes that are cutting a deadly swath through our nation’s line of blue.
On behalf of Law Officer, I extend the deepest condolences to the families, friends and fellow officers of those who lost their lives during the month of August. Listed chronologically, following are summaries of the August losses.
Deputy Josh Mitchell, 25, Reagan County Sheriff's Office, TX, was part of a search effort for a suicidal subject in the town of Big Lake. When the subject was encountered, he opened fire, killing Deputy Mitchell. The suspect subsequently shot himself in the face and died a week later.
Constable Brian Bachman, 41, Brazos County Constable’s Office, TX, was serving an eviction notice in the town of College Station when the subject of the eviction opened fire, killing Constable Bachmann. The suspect continued firing from the home, killing one civilian and wounding another. During the response, a total of three more officers were injured. A prolonged shootout resulted in the death of the suspect.
Agent Wilfredo Ramos-Nieves, 42, Puerto Rico Police Department, PR was involved in a narcotics operation with five other agents in the town of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. A subject with a gun opened fire, striking and killing Agent Ramos-Nieves. The suspect was subsequently arrested.
Deputy Sheriffs Jeremy Triche, 27, and Brandon Nielsen, 34, St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office, LA, were following up on the shooting of a sheriff’s investigator who had been working an off-duty security detail. The investigator had been sitting in his department vehicle about 0500 when someone opened fire on him. A car believed to be involved in the shooting was located in a nearby trailer park and Deputies Nielsen, Triche and a third deputy were questioning two men outside a mobile home when a third suspect suddenly exited the trailer and opened fire with a rifle. Deputies Nielsen and Triche both died as a result of the attack. The third deputy was seriously wounded. Seven suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident and some of them reportedly have ties with the group known as Sovereign Citizens..
Officer Robert A. Potter, 41, New Mexico Motor Transportation Police, NM, suffered a fatal heart attack after responding to a major accident involving two tractor trailer rigs near the town of Vado. He was one of the first on the scene and provided life-saving assistance to the crash victims. Later, while at a near-by staging area, he suddenly collapsed. Although he was transported to the hospital, he died the following day.
Officer Moses Walker, Jr., 40, Philadelphia Police Department, PA, had just finished his shift and was walking to a bus stop in civilian clothes. He noticed two suspicious subjects approaching and he tried to avoid an encounter. The two caught up to him and attempted to rob Officer Walker. When he tried to take action, they shot him several times. The incident was captured on multiple surveillance systems. Both of the suspects involved in the attack have been arrested.
Officer Adrian Morris, 23, Prince George's County Police Department, MD, was killed in a vehicle crash while pursuing a theft suspect. Officer Morris lost control of the patrol car which left the roadway and entered a ravine. The officer was not wearing his seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle, suffering major head trauma. He was transported to a local hospital but succumbed to his injuries. Officer Morris had served with the department since the age of 15 by starting as a police explorer. He had been an officer for two-and-a-half years.
Correctional Officer Timothy Betts, 51, Indiana Department of Corrections, IN, suffered a fatal heart attack while moving a disruptive inmate to the segregation unit at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. Other officers began CPR and used a defibrillator but he died at a local hospital a short time later.
Corporal Marshall Bailey, 42, and Trooper Eric Workman, 26, West Virginia State Police, were shot and killed after stopping a vehicle for reckless driving in a commuter parking lot. They arrested the intoxicated driver and handcuffed him with his hands in front of his body. The suspect was searched and placed in the back of the patrol car where he was able to reach a 9mm handgun that had been missed in the search. He shot both officers inside their car. Corporal Bailey died at the scene. Trooper Workman succumbed to his wounds two days later. After shooting the two officers, the suspect shot a tow driver who had come to the scene to impound the car. The driver escaped and called for help. The suspect fled the scene and a major search followed. The suspect hid in a ditch and opened fire on the officers looking for him, striking a deputy in the arm, hand and stomach. Body armor saved the deputy’s life. Officers returned fire, killing the suspect.
Chief Herbert Proffitt (ret), 87, Tompkinsville Police Department, KY, was shot and killed in his own driveway by a suspect he had arrested several times over the course of the last forty years. When arrested, the suspect had copies of related citations in his possession. Chief Proffitt was a Korean War veteran and had served in law enforcement for 55 years. He retired in 2000 then returned to work for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office , retiring again in 2009. According to Chris Cosgriff, founder of the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP.org), Chief Proffitt is the oldest line-of-duty death on record.
Officer Forrest "Dino" Taylor, 44, Baltimore City Police Department, MD, died as a result of injuries sustained in a patrol car crash that occurred in February, 2012. He was responding to backup other officers when his vehicle was struck in an intersection by an SUV that reportedly ran a red light. He underwent several surgeries and died as a result of complications from one of those surgeries.
Captain Leide DeFusco, 43, Pueblo County Sheriff's Office, CO, died as a result of an airplane crash while searching for marijuana grows in the Wet Mountains. Also killed in the crash was John Barger, a retired police captain from Pueblo, CO Police Department. The two were flying over an area that had been raided during the past two weeks when radio contact was lost with the aircraft. The plane’s smoldering wreckage was found in the rugged terrain of the San Isabel National Forest in Custer County.
These officers left behind eleven spouses and a total of 29 children. Their lives will be forever changed as a result of these officers’ deaths. When you objectively look at the summaries of our LODDs, it’s clear that cops do not have to die in the numbers that we continue to see. Even with the brief descriptions provided above, it’s evident that there are areas for constructive change and improvement in safety. Doing this will save lives. We must hold each other accountable. We must have the courageous conversations. Let’s continue improving basic safety awareness and practice common sense so we can send more officers home to their families instead of funeral homes.