The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Commemorates 145 Fallen Heroes
By Craig W. Floyd
Master Police Officer Michael E. Garbarino was leaving work early last May to get ready for a family vacation. After changing clothes and locking his service pistol in his locker, he returned to his cruiser parked in the rear of the police station. He was sitting in the driver side of his vehicle with the door of the cruiser open when a man in a stolen white van pulled up alongside. The man exited his vehicle wearing a ski mask and camouflage clothing. He stood just a few yards away from MPO Garbarino when he opened fire with an AK-47-type assault rifle. More than 20 rounds were fired, with five of the bullets striking MPO Garbarino. Master Police Officer Michael E. Garbarino
In another part of the station parking lot, Detective Vicky Armel was putting on her bullet-resistant vest and preparing to respond to a call about a carjacking a few miles away. Ironically, the carjacking had been committed moments earlier by the same man who was now launching the ambush attack in the police parking lot. Detective Armel saw that her colleague was in trouble and she attempted to divert the gunman's attention away from MPO Garbarino. She fired seven rounds toward the man, but was hit with a 30-06 rifle round through her bullet-resistant vest. She was shot twice more, but amazingly was still able to fire four more shots at the man before succumbing to her injuries.
Meanwhile, a severely injured Mike Garbarino was on the radio helping to direct responding officers to the suspect's location. Thanks to the courageous actions of MPO Garbarino, Detective Armel and a number of other brave officers who responded to the scene, the crazed gunman was shot and killed, but only after he had fired more than 70 rounds. Vicky Armel, a 17-year police veteran, was pronounced dead when she arrived by helicopter at a local hospital. Mike Garbarino, a 23-year veteran, died nine days later.
Vicky Armel and Mike Garbarino were two of 145 federal, state and local law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty last year, the lowest total since 1999 when 143 fatalities occurred. All of their names will be officially added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., at a candlelight vigil on May 13. When those names are added, along with 237 newly discovered line-of-duty deaths from earlier years, there will be 17,917 names on the Memorial walls.
For the ninth straight year, traffic-related incidents claimed the lives of more officers (71) than any other cause of death. Forty-five of those officers died in automobile crashes, 11 died in motorcycle crashes, and 15 were struck and killed by vehicles. Included among that group was Ryan C. Seguin, 23, of the Broward County (FL) Sheriff's Office. On February 15, Deputy Seguin was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while making a traffic stop. Deputy Seguin was one of 41 officers working for sheriff's offices who died in law enforcement service last year.
Among the other causes of death, 52 officers were shot and killed, 14 died of job-related illnesses, three were killed in aircraft crashes, two died when a vehicle crashed into two officers on bicycles, one was beaten to death, one was stabbed to death, and one was killed in a terrorist attack in Iraq.
On average, the officers who sacrificed their lives were 38 years old and had served for 11 years. The youngest of the officers to die last year was 18-year-old Erin S. Frasier of the U.S. Air Force Security Police — one of six female officers killed in 2006. On March 13, Officer Frasier lost her life in an automobile crash while patrolling Edwards Air Force Base in California. In addition to Officer Frasier, there were six other federal and military law enforcement officers killed in the performance of duty in 2006.
The oldest officer to die last year, Lieutenant Herman W. Brooks of the De Ridder (LA) Police Department, was 76 years old when he died on February 17, 2006. Lieutenant Brooks died from injuries he sustained eight years earlier when he was struck by a drunken driver traveling at approximately 50 miles per hour. Lieutenant Brooks had been in a coma from the time of the incident until he died.
The state with the most law enforcement fatalities last year was California with 16, including California Highway Patrol Police Officer Earl Scott, who was shot in the back of the head on February 17 after stopping a car for speeding.
The second most fatalities occurred in Virginia with 10, their highest total ever in a single year. Two of those officers served with the Virginia State Police. On February 18, Trooper Kevin Manion was killed in a freak accident while assisting another trooper at an accident scene. As a tow truck pulled the car from a ditch, a rifle inside the vehicle discharged, fatally striking Trooper Manion in the chest.
On November 24, Senior Trooper Robert Hill Sr. was speaking to the driver of a vehicle he had stopped when he was struck and killed by another car that had drifted from the travel lane.
When other people were in desperate straits and needed a helping hand, New York State Trooper Andrew "AJ" Sperr always seemed to be at the ready. After terrorists struck the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, Trooper Sperr responded, volunteering to help serve a devastated and fearful city. When Hurricane Katrina struck in September 2005, Trooper Sperr spent four weeks helping out New Orleans during its worst natural disaster.
And when two gunmen held up a bank in Big Flats, New York, on March 1st, 2006, the 10-year state police veteran responded to the call for help once again. As Trooper Sperr closed in on the suspects, they opened fire and he was shot. Though gravely wounded, this brave Trooper managed to return fire and wound both suspects. Trooper Sperr had put his life on the line for the last time that day, and he later succumbed to his injuries — one of 21 state police officers killed last year.
Three of the officers who made the supreme sacrifice last year were correctional officers. New Jersey Senior Corrections Officer Wayne R. Clark was killed in an automobile crash on January 10, 2006;
Maryland Corrections Officer II Jeffery A. Wroten was shot to death on January 27, 2006, by an inmate in his custody at a local hospital;
and Maryland Corrections Officer II David W. McGuinn was stabbed to death on July 25, 2006, while conducting a nightly prisoner count.
More than 2,000 law enforcement officers and other friends and family members attended Officer McGuinn's funeral. "Men today have the hearts of ferocious animals, seeking to kill," said one of the speakers, family friend Michael Garris. "To you police officers who every day go out and walk the streets and face that beast, to you correctional officers, men and women who work in the jails, in the prisons, you're at the mouth of the beast. We want to thank you for protecting us."
Reprinted with permission of the author and AMERICAN POLICE BEAT.
Craig W. Floyd is chairman of the National law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Visit www.nleomf.org for more information about law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
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