May 08, 2004

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National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Featuring articles from Executive Director Craig Floyd
with National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

Fallen heroes to be remembered

National Police Week - May 9-15

- View a full list of the 362 fallen officers who will be officially added to the Memorial on Thursday, May 13, 2004.

- For full coverage of Police Week, visit the PoliceOne News section.

New York City Police Detectives Rodney J. Andrews and James V. Nemorin worked in the elite 23-member Firearms Investigation Unit of the Narcotics Division. According to one of their colleagues, "Our job is to get guns off the streets before they are used to commit a crime or kill someone."

They work undercover and often deal with cold-blooded street thugs who would think nothing of killing a cop. A veteran of the all-volunteer unit put it this way, "In this job you're pretty much bait, and I know that a big fish could come along and eat me any time."

The worst of those fears came true on the night of March 10, 2003. Detectives Andrews, 33, and Nemorin, 40, had arranged to buy a Tec-9 submachine pistol for $1,200 from the associates of a man they had bought a gun from the week before. The Tec-9 has been described as a popular gun for "mass murders" and the Firearms Investigation Unit would do whatever it takes to get one of them off of the street. But the sting went bad, and the two veteran officers were each shot and killed. After searching their bodies for money, the two murderers dumped the bodies in the street and drove off.

"They died heroes . . . and shall be forever remembered by the people of New York and the NYPD for their actions," declared their commanding officer, Captain Vincent DiDonato. "They were world class cops, loving fathers and pillars of society."

Detectives Andrews and Nemorin were two of 145 law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty last year in the United States. All of their names will be officially added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. at a candlelight vigil scheduled for the evening of May 13.

Of the 145 officers killed during 2003, 51 were shot to death; 51 died in automobile accidents; 13 were struck by automobiles while on duty outside their vehicles; 11 died in motorcycle accidents; six succumbed to job-related illnesses; four officers drowned; two officers were beaten to death; two officers fell to their deaths; one officer was killed in an aircraft accident; one officer was electrocuted to death; one office was stabbed to death; one officer was strangled; and one officer was hit by a train.

The states that suffered most were California (17 fatalities), Georgia and Texas (10 fatalities each), Virginia (eight fatalities), Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee (seven fatalities each), and North Carolina (six fatalities).

The 145 deaths last year represent a slight decline from 2002, when 148 officers lost their lives. This fatality figure is far below the decade-long average of 166 deaths per year, and is the lowest number of officers killed since 1999.

In fact, since the 1970s — the deadliest decade in law enforcement history with 224 officers killed on average each year — police fatalities have decreased by more than 25 percent. In fact, the odds of being killed in the line of duty if you are a law officer today are about one in 6,000. Thirty years ago, about one out of every 1,500 officers made the ultimate sacrifice. But, no matter the number, "Every U.S. law enforcement officer fatality is a national tragedy," according to Linda Hintergardt-Soubirous, the National President of Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) and the surviving spouse of an officer killed in the line of duty, Kent Hintergardt of the Riverside (CA) Sheriff's Department.

Six of the officers killed last year were women. One of them was Norfolk (VA) Police Officer Sheila Herring. During the early morning hours of January 16, Officer Herring, 39, was shot and killed while responding to a shooting at a local bar. Like nearly 70 percent of the officers killed last year, Officer Herring was wearing a bullet-resistant vest, but she was shot in areas not protected by her vest. Officer Herring's assailant was shot and killed by other officers on the scene.

During the early morning hours of September 13, 2003, Montgomery County (MD) Lieutenant Joseph A. Mattingly Jr. was on patrol when his cruiser went out of control on a rain-slicked road and hit a tree. Lieutenant Mattingly, who was posthumously promoted to Captain, earned the nickname, "Jumpin' Joe," because of his tireless enthusiasm for duty. He was a leader in the effort to crack down on teenage drinking. Ironically, while officers were attending his wake, three teenagers pulled up nearby in a van and began smoking marijuana. Police officers surrounded the van and arrested the teenagers. A search of the van turned up a stolen handgun and ammunition. One of the officers in attendance said, "Joe would have wanted it that way-people working at his wake."

Throughout history, more than 1,000 law enforcement officers have been killed in motorcycle accidents, including 11 from last year. One of those officers was Thomas J. Morash of the West Palm Beach (FL) Police Department. On October 17, Officer Morash, 33, was responding to a minor traffic accident when a motorist suddenly turned into his path. Several citizens came to his rescue, but he died soon after at a local hospital.

One of the 17 officers who died last year in California was Burbank Police Officer Matthew Pavelka. On the evening of November 15, he responded to a backup call from another officer, Gregory Campbell. Officer Campbell had stopped an SUV without any license plates. The area of the traffic stop was well known for drug trafficking and other criminal activity. When the two officers approached the car, they ordered the two male occupants to exit the vehicle. The two men jumped out firing automatic weapons. Officers Campbell and Pavelka were both seriously wounded, but managed to return fire and kill one of the gunmen. Officer Campbell survived the shooting, but Officer Pavelka, after just about a year on the job, died during surgery. Matt is survived by his parents, Sue and Michael, a 29-year veteran detective of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The second gunman managed to escape on foot and fled to Mexico, where he was arrested by Mexican police and then turned over to American authorities at the border. Afterwards, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley declared, "When it comes to murdering one of our police officers, we don't forgive, we don't forget, and we don't surrender."

The second gunman managed to escape on foot and fled to Mexico, where he was arrested by Mexican police and then turned over to American authorities at the border. Afterwards, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley declared, "When it comes to murdering one of our police officers, we don't forgive, we don't forget, and we don't surrender."

About the author

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund was established in 1984 to generate increased public support for the law enforcement profession by permanently recording and appropriately commemorating the service and sacrifice of all federal, state and local law enforcement officers.






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