Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 earlier this year to abolish the death penalty for juvenile killers, a troubling e-mail was sent to our office by the cousin of a Texas law enforcement officer shot and killed by one of those teenage murderers. It read:
" . . . My cousin, Micheal Ray Eakin, was killed in the line of duty in Harris County, Texas. His killer was sentenced by a jury to death. Because he was not yet 18, his sentence has been commuted down to 30 years. He has already served 7. As we all know, because of overcrowding he will be out in 15, so with time served he will actually be out in 8 . . . "
That certainly is an unsettling thought, especially given the cold-blooded nature of the crime. On September 29, 1998, Harris County (TX) Deputy Constable Eakin stopped a vehicle occupied by four passengers for a traffic violation. After the car pulled over, one of the juvenile passengers jumped out and fled into a wooded area. Deputy Constable Eakin gave chase and eventually caught the fleeing suspect. But, as he attempted to make the arrest, the 17-year-old pulled a handgun out from the waistband of his pants and shot Deputy Eakin twice. According to a newspaper account, Harris County "Sheriff Tommy Thomas said the physical evidence indicates [the killer] grabbed . . . Eakin by the throat and shot him in the throat, then fired another round into his head."
|Deputy Micheal Ray Eakin|
It was not the first time that a teenager killed a cop. In fact, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 70 law enforcement officers were killed by assailants under the age of 18 during the 10-year period ending in 2003.
One of those officers was a 13-year veteran of the Houston (TX) Police Department named Kent Kincaid. On May 23, 1998, Sergeant Kincaid was driving his personal vehicle while off-duty with his wife. Passengers in a passing car seemingly threw something that shattered Sergeant Kincaid's windshield. He pursued the suspect vehicle and pulled the car over.
|Sergeant Kent Kincaid|
When he walked up to the vehicle and identified himself as a police officer, he was shot and killed.
As it turned out, the occupants in the car were all juveniles and they had just robbed a local business. While fleeing the scene, one of the suspects was attempting to unjam his gun when it went off accidentally, shattering the windshield of Sergeant Kincaid's car.
According to the records kept by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, one of the first juvenile cop killers can be traced back to 1878 when San Francisco Officer John Coots was shot and killed by John Runk, a 17-year-old juvenile he was trying to arrest. Runk was later convicted of the murder and hanged in 1879.
On July 19, 1999, Delaware County (OK) Special Deputy Vernie Roberts was transporting a juvenile prisoner from one correctional facility to another when he was shot and killed. His wife, who was also a reserve deputy, was in the front passenger seat with him. The prisoner, who was in the back seat, was able to reach forward and grab Deputy Roberts' wife around the neck. He demanded that Deputy Roberts pull the vehicle over and, when he did, a struggle ensued and the 65-year-old officer was killed. His wife was uninjured.
|Special Deputy Vernie Roberts|
Cincinnati Police Officer Kevin Crayon was killed by one of the youngest cop killers on record. He observed the boy driving a vehicle in the parking lot of a convenience store. When the juvenile could not produce a driver's license, he attempted to flee the scene with the officer's arm stuck inside the car. Officer Crayon was dragged to his death, but before he died he was able to fire one fatal shot, killing the 12-year-old suspect.
|Officer Kevin Crayon|
While we may like to give our young people the benefit of the doubt, the truth is that some teenagers are sometimes the most heinous criminals of them all. Clifford Dicker was a 14-year veteran of the Wythe County (VA) Sheriff's Office when he went to serve a juvenile detention warrant on December 6, 1994. The youth he was attempting to arrest had other ideas, though. He took a rifle and shot Deputy Dicker twice. Then, leaving no doubt about how ruthless juvenile killers can be, he took the Deputy's service revolver and shot him a third time execution style in the head.
|Deputy Clifford Dicker|
On June 30, 2001, Chicago Police Officer Brian Strouse and two other officers responded to a call of gang-related gunfire. When they arrived on the scene a 16-year-old gang member opened fire, killing Officer Strouse. Less than a year later, in Marion (LA), Patrolman Hector Manuel Gomez suffered a similar fate. On March 5, 2002, Patrolman Gomez responded to a bank where three juveniles were attempting to cash a forged check. The three suspects fled in their car as soon as Patrolman Gomez arrived, but soon crashed in a ditch. As the 27-year-old officer approached the vehicle, he was shot several times and killed by one of the teens.
|Officer Brian Strouse|
Christy Lynne Hamilton's lifelong dream was to follow in her father's footsteps and become a Los Angeles police officer. But, for many years that dream was put on hold while Christy raised her two children, Kelley and Steven.
|Patrolman Hector Manuel Gomez|
Finally, with her children grown, 45-year-old Christy Hamilton became a rookie police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. But on February 22, 1994, just four days after her graduation ceremony from the Police Academy, Officer Hamilton was shot and killed by a 17-year-old youth. Her father, retired Los Angeles Detective Ken Brondell, said, "She would have worn [her badge] without arrogance. She didn't want a badge to have authority; she wanted to go out and help people. It's just too bad it got cut short."
|Officer Christy Lynne Hamilton|