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THEY MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE


June 21, 2000
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THEY MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE

Jeremiah Engleton was mad at his wife, Violet Ann, for letting their milk cow get loose. When she could not find the cow, Mrs. Engleton was told by her husband to “get out!” As she was packing to leave he beat her. It was this burst of domestic violence that led to one of the bloodiest scenes in Texas law enforcement history. Mrs. Engleton complained to police and had her husband arrested. She then took refuge in a shelter for battered women. When her husband was released on $2,000 bond less than 24 hours later he returned home to find his wife gone and apparently snapped. He stockpiled hundreds of rounds of ammunition, armed himself with an SKS semi-automatic assault rifle, and then placed a bogus 911 call to police for help. His frantic message was, “Get someone to 7100 Coughran Road right away!” He then hid in the darkness across the roadway and waited for police to arrive. The first officer on the scene was Thomas Monse, an Atascosa County sheriff’s deputy. As he stepped from his car, Deputy Monse was shot in the back. About five minutes later another deputy, Mark Stephenson, drove up. With his car engine still running, Deputy Stephenson stood next to his vehicle and was also shot from behind. After shooting the two deputies with his assault rifle, Engleton ran over to his victims, took their service pistols and shot them both in the head—then he returned to his assassin’s perch hidden in the brush. When the deputies failed to call in, Trooper Terry Miller of the Texas Department of Public Safety, went to investigate. As he arrived shortly after 9 p.m., he called in “officers down,” but was never heard from again. Police believe he came under fire and was killed as he attempted to back his car out of the line of fire. Trooper Miller was still wearing his seatbelt when he was found. About 100 officers soon converged on the trailer park located south of San Antonio. Hundreds of rounds of ammunition were fired, mostly by Engleton. Two other officers and a nearby resident were shot and injured. Finally, just before 11 p.m., Engleton stood up and began firing his rifle in a 360-degree turn. There was some return fire and then a single shot. Engleton had taken one of the deputies’ guns and committed suicide. The local sheriff, Tommy Williams, tried to make some sense out of the tragedy, saying, [The killer] had to blame somebody [for his troubles] and, I would say, he probably took it out on us.” It’s an explanation that could be applied to many of the 134 law enforcement fatalities that occurred in 1999. In Indiana last year, Trooper Cory Elson was simply making a traffic stop when he was shot and killed. As Trooper Elson stepped out of his car and approached the vehicle he had pulled over, a man jumped out and opened fire with an automatic assault rifle. More than 30 shots were fired. Trooper Elson had graduated from the police academy just five months before his death. His roommate had been Richard Gaston, another Indiana State Trooper who died last year during a traffic stop when his police cruiser was slammed from behind by a tractor-trailer. Incredibly, a third trooper from that December 1998 academy class, Jason E. Beal, was also killed in the line of duty in January of this year. Phoenix Police Officer Marc Atkinson was chasing after a car full of drug traffickers last March when they turned a corner, exited their vehicle and drew their weapons. As Officer Atkinson made the turn, he was fired upon, receiving two fatal blasts to the head. On September 23, 1998, Captain Robbie Bishop of the Villa Rica (GA) Police Department was shot and injured in the leg while attempting to arrest a teenage car thief. The 12-year law enforcement veteran would have probably been killed, but as he lay wounded on the ground a colleague, James O. Hunt, came to his rescue and covered Captain Bishop’s body with his own. Agent Hunt was shot three times, including twice in the chest, but both of the officers survived the incident. Tragically, though, it seems that fate was not to be foiled a second time. Just four months later, Captain Bishop was shot and killed during another traffic stop. He was writing a warning citation when he was killed, but Captain Bishop, a legendary drug interdiction expert, was in all likelihood preparing to turn this traffic violation into one of his many drug busts. Unfortunately, he never got the chance. While shootings accounted for 45 law enforcement fatalities in 1999, automobile accidents caused 47 police deaths. This was the first year ever that firearms were not the number one cause of police deaths. In Grove Hill, Alabama, Patrolmen Brian Anderson and Leon Malone were in pursuit of a suspicious vehicle that sped past them at a high rate of speed when they lost control of their vehicle and crashed into a house. Their car burst into flames and both officers died in the crash. Virginia State Trooper Daniel Williams was working a sobriety check point this past December when he observed a driver make a U-turn in an apparent attempt to avoid detection for drunk driving. Trooper Williams was killed after giving chase and losing control of his vehicle on the wet roadway. Caddo Parish (LA) Deputy Glenda Carmack, 42, was one of 11 female officers killed during 1999, the second highest total for a single year ever. She was killed when her patrol vehicle was struck by a flatbed truck. The driver of the truck had lost control and crossed the center line. On March 4, 1999, Sierra County (NM) Deputy Kelly Fay Clark was shot and killed by an inmate she was transporting to prison. The suspect managed to squeeze through the sliding Plexiglas separating the front and back of the cruiser and grab Deputy Clark’s weapon. Deputy Clark was shot twice in the head. Sergeant First Class Jeanne Balcombe, of the U.S. Army Military Police Corps, was shot and killed in South Korea by one of her own soldiers. She was responding to a disturbance call where several military personnel were drunk and causing a disturbance. One of the suspects became enraged when Sergeant Balcombe ordered a blood test on him and his friends. The suspect overpowered a Korean security guard, stole his weapon, and shot Sergeant Balcombe three times. Sergeant Balcombe had courageously placed herself between the soldier and innocent bystanders when she was shot. It was typical of the bravery and selfless sacrifice that was displayed by each of the 134 law enforcement officers who laid down their lives over the past year. Their names will soon be engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, ensuring that they will never be forgotten.# # #This article originally appeared in the May 2000 issue of AMERICAN POLICE BEAT, a national law enforcement publication. It appears here with permission of the author and AMERICAN POLICE BEAT.



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