FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
Thirteen officers lost their lives during the month of February, bringing the toll for 2013 to 18. In spite of February having just 28 days, it was incredibly deadly for our law enforcement brethren. The rate of loss this month was accelerated by the fact that one killer was responsible for three officers' deaths in three separate shootings and two detectives lost their lives in a single incident.
In spite of a very deadly month, the total number of officers lost thus far is still significantly below last year at this time. According to our partners at the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP.org), here’s where we stand thus far: The total LODD numbers are 22% lower overall than last year at this time. Gunfire deaths are down 18% and auto-related deaths are down 29%. Although we have only two months behind us, this is definitely progress and we should build upon this, refusing to accept any loss as normal or acceptable. Even more notable is that these numbers are significantly lower than 2012, which was much lower than either 2011 or 2010.
Of the thirteen officers lost this past month, seven of them died as a result of gunfire. California was particularly hard hit, accounting for six of those seven. Three officers died of heart attacks, two died as a result of vehicle-related incidents and one was stabbed to death. On behalf of everyone at Law Officer, I extend the most sincere condolences to the coworkers, families and friends of the fallen.
In order of occurrence, here are the losses for February:
Conway, Ark., Police Officer William Michael McGary, 26, died after being struck by an intoxicated driver while directing traffic. The driver was found to be under the influence of narcotics.
New York City Police Sergeant Patrick Divers, 51, suffered a heart attack while participating in a drug-buy-bust operation. He was transported to a local hospital after experiencing chest pains but died at the hospital a short time later.
Buffalo, N.Y., Police Department Officer Patricia Parete, 48, died as a result of gunshot wounds suffered in 2006 when she and another officer confronted a subject during a disturbance call. While being searched, the subject pulled a handgun and shot both officers in the face. Officer Parete suffered a spinal injury and was paralyzed from the neck down. She died as a result of complications from the shooting.
Portsmouth, Va., Deputy Sheriff Billy Ray Grimsley, 59, died as result of injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash in December 2012. He was returning from a parade when he struck a defect in the roadway and was thrown from the motorcycle. He suffered a broken ankle for which he underwent surgery. He subsequently died as a result of a pulmonary embolism related to the surgery.
University of Southern California Public Safety Officer Keith Lawrence, 27, was shot and killed by a disgruntled and deranged subject who was intent on wreaking havoc on officers in Southern California. Lawrence and his fiancé were shot multiple times as they pulled into a parking spot. The fiancé was the daughter of another police officer who the subject was angry with. Investigation showed that the killer had done research and was aware that Lawrence was a police officer prior to the killing.
Riverside, Calif., Police Officer Michael Crain, 34, was murdered in an ambush committed by the same subject who had killed Officer Lawrence (above). Crain and his partner were stopped at a red light at 0130 when the subject opened fire, fatally wounding Crain and seriously wounding his partner. Shortly before shooting the two Riverside officers, the same subject had opened fire on LAPD officers, injuring one of them.
San Bernardino, Calif., Sheriff’s Detective Jeremiah MacKay, 35, was shot and killed when he and other officers were attempting to arrest the subject responsible for killing Officers Lawrence and Crain (above). The suspect had fled to the Big Bear area of California, a densely wooded resort area that was experiencing intense cold and snow at the time of the search. The effort to find the suspect continued for several days, ultimately coming to an end when a person who was being held hostage escaped and notified authorities. The suspect fled in a stolen vehicle but was spotted by officers from California Fish and Game. A gun battle followed but the suspect was able to reach a cabin where a second gun battle took place in which Detective MacKay and another officer were wounded. Both were eventually flown from the scene for treatment, but Detective Mackay succumbed to his injuries later that day. The suspect ultimately shot himself to death.
Chesterfield, Mo., Police Detective Christopher Simpson, 56, suffered a heart attack while participating in a physical training regimen at the department’s fitness center. He had served with Chesterfield for 25 years and had been in law enforcement for a total of 35 years, having previously served with the Maplewood and Berkeley Police Departments.
St. Paul, Minn., Police Officer Josh Lynaugh, 30, suffered a heart attack while involved in a foot pursuit and search for a suspect. He was able to catch the suspect and take him into custody but shortly after placing the subject in his patrol car, he became ill. He was transported to a medical facility but died eight days later.
U.S. Department of Justice Correctional Officer Eric Williams, 34, died after being stabbed to death by an inmate inside the Canaan Prison in Waymart, Pennsylvania. The suspect used an improvised shank and was subdued by other officers. Williams was transported to a hospital but later succumbed to his injuries. He had been a correctional officer for 18 months.
Santa Cruz, Calif., Police Sergeant Loran “Butch” Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler, 38, were shot and killed during a sexual assault investigation at a residence. The suspect began fighting with the officers and fatally shot both of them during the struggle. He stole their handguns and fled in their unmarked vehicle. He was later spotted by officers and opened fire. The officers returned fire, killing him. The suspect was found to be wearing body armor. The son of Sgt. Baker serves as an officer with Santa Cruz PD.
St. Lucie County, Fla., Sheriff’s Sergeant Gary Morales, 35, was shot and killed during a traffic stop. The subject exited his vehicle and opened fire on Sgt. Morales as he was sitting in his patrol car. Morales was transported from the scene but died from his injuries. The suspect was subsequently taken into custody by other officers.
These officers leave behind eight grieving spouses and eleven children.
Behind each of these losses is a lesson waiting to be learned and it’s from these stories that we can prevent the deaths of others. Although it’s painful, we must embrace these lessons in order to protect the living. We're doing a tremendous disservice to the fallen and their families if we do not. That should be unacceptable to anyone who wears a badge or loves someone who does.
The obligation for improving officer safety lies with each of us as individuals. You can make a difference, regardless of your rank or position in your agency. Have the courage to speak up when you see another officer taking unnecessary chances. Make sure your actions set a good example for others. Improving overall safety awareness among officers is absolutely key to lowering our annual LODD number. This means we must embrace a culture of safety in all areas. Remember Below 100! The life you save may be your own! www.Below100.com.
Note: We rely on ODMP.org for the official numbers and summaries that result in our monthly end-of-watch reports. I strongly encourage you (especially trainers!) to visit their site because so much can be learned from the LODD summaries that are provided.