January is always a time of reflection, but this year it was supposed to be a time of relief: 2009 was over and perhaps we could enjoy a fresh start after the pain and turmoil of the previous year. Although fewer law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2009 than in any year since 1959, of the 125 officers lost, 48 of them were felled by gunfire. This represents a 23 percent increase in gunfire deaths, according to Craig Floyd of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Many of those 48 officers killed were ambushed, even hunted by their attackers. January 2010 was going to be the time to move forward and honor our fallen by learning from their sacrifice, remembering their families, and working even harder to keep each other safe.
Our collective hearts were broken on the first day of 2010 when we learned of the death of Officer Maylon “Tommy” Bishop Jr. of Guntersville, Ala. He succumbed to injuries he had received 16 years earlier when he was shot below the vest during a domestic dispute. Two days later, Grant County, Wash. Deputy John Bernard lost control of his patrol vehicle in a rural area near Ephrata and rolled the car over an embankment; he was found dead at the scene. John Bernard became the eighth Washington State officer killed in five months, and was the seventh buried in an unthinkable 60-day period.
The next day, Johnny Lee Wicks, upset over his recent cut in Social Security benefits, opened fire with a shotgun in the lobby of the federal court house in Las Vegas, Nev. He fatally wounded Special Deputy Marshal Stanley Cooper and also injured a deputy marshal before fleeing the building. Wicks was killed in a gunfight across the street a short time later. Stanley Cooper had been with Las Vegas Metropolitan police department for 26 years before becoming a federal court security officer in 1994. LVMPD had just buried four police officers in 2009 and now they had to bury Stan Cooper, whom they still considered one of their own. It was only January 4.
On January 5, 38-year-old Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox of the Millard County, Utah sheriff’s office was working back up for an auto theft investigation when she called for assistance. Her sergeant found her in the street, a gunshot wound to her throat. She became the 129th Utah police officer to die in the line of duty, and the second female officer killed in the line of duty in just over a month. Four days later, Mishawaka, Ind. PD’s Corporal James Szuba and his K-9 partner “Ricky” were killed in a head-on vehicle assault as they raced to assist in the pursuit of a drunk driver.
Another drunk driver collided with a New Orleans patrol car on January 9 while Officer Alfred Celestain and his partner were responding to an unrelated call. Officer Celestain slipped into a coma and died two days later. The next day, Louisiana State Trooper Duane Dalton’s cruiser was struck while he was on patrol near Moss Bluff; he died at the hospital of his injuries.
On January 13, Officer Craig Story of the Arlington, Texas police department struck the side of a school bus on with his motorcycle after entering an intersection with his lights and siren activated. His bike burst into flames, and although citizens smothered the flames on Officer Story’s clothing and dragged him to safety, he died at the scene. Craig Story was the seventh Arlington police officer to die in the line of duty.
On that same day, Pennsylvania State Police lost Trooper Paul Richey to gunfire after he and another trooper responded to a domestic dispute in Cranberry Township. As both troopers left their vehicles, shots were fired from the inside of the residence, striking Trooper Richey. More units arrived, rescuing Trooper Richey from the scene, but he died from his wounds a short time later. The suspect later murdered his wife and then killed himself. The next day, Deputy James Anderson of the St. Johns County, Fla. sheriff’s office was killed when his cruiser was struck head-on by another vehicle that was driving in the wrong lane.
January 14, after killing two women and leaving two others fighting for their lives, John Kalisz slipped through a police dragnet. By the time he was captured hours later, another person was dead - Dixie County Sheriff's Captain Chad Reed. Reed was shot in the face as Kalisz was being pulled over by two unmarked police cruisers. Carrying two loaded shotguns, Kalisz had told his brother that he would kill as many deputies as possible
It’s the end of a deadly and tragic two weeks. Where do we go from here?
Street Survival’s senior instructor Dave Smith says, “The most important thing that each of us can do is recognize what we control and what we don’t, and then work hard to do our best with what we do control.”
The first two weeks of this new decade reminds us that nothing in this profession is “routine.” We need to examine our habits, fight complacency, look out for each other, and be there for the families of our fallen. What the rest of this year will bring is anyone’s guess, but so far, 2010 is “coming up tails” for law enforcement. Lets collectively do all that we can to turn the tide in our favor.