Kind of grabs your attention, doesn’t it? Love cops, hate ‘em – doesn’t really matter. Officer-involved shootings are sure to grab the headlines, regardless of the outcome. Why? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? We, generally speaking, have become a society obsessed with violence. On top of that, everyone has a stake in it? Some, even feel they have an ‘axe to grind’.
Let’s just be honest. Visit any message board once reports of an officer-involved shooting begin to cycle and, though few details have emerged, the blame game is in full swing. Gun control advocates are blaming the NRA. Gun control opponents are reminding everyone “Guns don’t kill people; People kill people.” Family members are grieving, but often friends and family of the suspect(s) are already blaming the officer(s). “Their child,” of course, “was a great kid,” who “never hurt anybody.” Cop haters are definitely blaming the officer(s) with, “Murderin’ pigs… I’d smoke me a pig!” Average citizens, lacking full knowledge of police procedures offer, “They should o’ just ‘tased’ the guy?”
You know who you don’t typically hear much from, at least not initially, if at all? The officer’s loved ones. Why is that? Do they not have a stake in the matter? Perhaps it’s because they, in spite of the given that their spouse, fiancé, child, etc. works in an inherently dangerous profession, they never truly expected to get ‘that call’. Maybe they are simply numb. Maybe, just maybe, they are human, after all. The common, eventual response from a fallen officer’s family member? “He/She dedicated his/her life to helping others. He/She died doing what he/she loved.”
Once, when I approached a civilian supervisor about obtaining ballistic vests for my troops, I was told, “They knew this job was dangerous when they took it.” Of course, that is true, but is that the best, most appropriate response? You signed up so, if you die, you die? What is wrong with us? What have we become as a society? Have we truly come to accept that violence, of any nature, is just ‘here to stay’, hence nothing can be/should be done to mitigate loss of life? I’m sorry, I do not accept that.
I’m reminded of Brad Pitt, as Detective David Mills in the 1995 thriller “Seven.” While engaged in conversation with his partner, Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), Mills refuses to accept Somerset’s view of the world – that it is, essentially, a cesspool beyond redemption. I, myself, have held both views. I entered law enforcement to “make a difference, to help others.” Policing, my friends, is a thankless job, but a noble one. If good police officers give up on society, what remains is anarchy. Which brings me to this.
What follows are excerpts of an open letter I addressed but, ultimately decided not to send – likely a wise move – to our current president. One of my primary concerns regarding violence is, there is no leadership in mitigating its effects. I call on all of us to say, enough of this. Too many people are dying in our streets. Too many children are falling victim to drive-by shootings, and their parents’ cries fall on deaf ears. Too many young men and women are caught up in illicit criminal activity. Why would they cry out? No one is listening. Too many police officers are falling – the numbers, as you will see – are staggering. It is time for our leaders to step up and, rather than perpetuate the hate, elect to tell Americans the truth.
From my letter (to the president):
“Why, sir, have you not taken to the podium to address a sudden, stark rise in felonious, fatal assaults on law enforcement officers? As of the posting of this letter, nine (update, twelve) police officers have been gunned down in the line of duty in 2016, an 1100% increase… What would be the harm in stepping to the podium and acknowledging these (12) senseless killings?”
The two most recent officers to be shot and killed are Ashley Guindon, 28, of the Prince William County Police Department, Virginia, and Officer David Hofer, 29, of the Euless Police Department, Texas. Officer Guindon was killed her very first day on the job. Officer Hofer had only recently proposed to his fiancé. They were not ‘bad cops’ preying on the innocent. They were people, just like you and me, only they elected to swear an oath to protect you and me and were trying to make a difference – keep us safe from those who would do evil. They were, in fact, just doing their job.
More from my letter:
“Why, sir, do you not draw more attention to the astounding murder rates in our inner cities? Together, we could make a difference. Is that not our goal? Why are we not working together to rout out gang violence, to ensure (gang) member prospects have attainable opportunities to contribute to our society in a positive way? Why are we not promoting these opportunities, so they appeal to these citizens (as an alternative) to robbery, drug trafficking, etc., as means by which to live?”
A little more:
“How many must die? I, personally, do not want to read one more story about a 9-year-old girl being killed by a stray bullet while she is sitting on her bed – in the sanctity of her home. (Jamyla Bolden, was killed while she was in her room doing homework, August 8, 2015.) Mr. President, you simply have not led. No, you are not the only one to have disappointed in this regard, but your platform is broader than that of any other… The presidency is a place of refuge for seekers of truth and justice, for leadership. And, the fact is, on matters such as these, we have seen no leadership. Consequently, we have not locked arm-in-arm to address, head-on, the core issues. Sir, without true leadership, we never will.”
“What follows is a list of some of those who have needlessly lost their lives, not because we lack sufficient gun control measures, but because we lack the courage to set aside our political motivations and simply do what is right – confront the darkness – evil – which is bleeding the life out of our country…”
– Jamyla Bolden, 9, fatally shot (stray bullet) while sitting on her bed doing homework, 8/8/15
– Michael Nolan, 23, gunned down standing near his vehicle at a fast-food restaurant, 9/18/15
– Officer Douglas Scott Barney II, 44, shot and killed upon arriving at the scene of a vehicle accident, 1/17/16
– Officer Thomas Cottrell, Jr., 34, fatally shot in an ambush, 1/17/16
– Sergeant Jason Goodding, 39, fatally shot during a warrant service, 2/5/16
– Kenniec Smith, 13, gunned down in a drive-by-shooting while visiting with friends, 12/5/16
– Nancy Mata, 17, shot and killed during a drive-by-shooting, 1/12/16
– Deputy Derek Geer, 40, fatally shot responding to an armed subject call, 2/10/16
– Senior Deputies Patrick Dailey, 52, and Mark Logsdon, 43, gunned down responding to a complaint about a disruptive person, 2/10/16
– Officer Jason Moszer, 33, shot and killed responding to a domestic violence call, 2/11/26
– Major Gregory E. Barney, 51, shot and killed assisting on a warrant service, 2/11/16
– Donta Parker, 16, and Sakinah Reed, 17, killed by a 16-year-old gunman, 1/5/16
– Special Agent Lee Tartt, 44, killed by a gunman who was holding his wife and child hostage, 2/20/16
– Corporal Nate Carrigan, 35, shot and killed while assisting other officers in serving a high-risk eviction order, 2/24/16
– Michelle Kelly-Love, 54, and her son Jordan Love, 27, shot to death while sitting in a vehicle, 2/27/16
– Officer Ashley Guindon, 28, shot and killed responding to a domestic disturbance call, 2/27/16
– Officer David Hofer, 29, shot and killed responding to a suspicious activity call, 3/1/16
– *Corporal Derrick Couch, who was shot in the face, 2/13/26, as he approached a man to question him about a reported armed robbery, is still hospitalized and fighting for his life. (I pray for his recovery).
Again, I call on local, state, and federal officials to acknowledge this problem and collaborate to develop and implement real solutions.
May God bless the families, friends, and communities reeling from the loss of those they hold dear.
*Note – Since this was originally published, seven more law enforcement officers have lost their lives in the line of duty, including Officer Jacai D. Colson, who died while he and other officers were responding to an active shooter situation at Prince George’s County Police Department, District III. Additionally, a Fort Worth, Texas police officer and a Washington County, Arkansas sheriff’s deputy were seriously injured by gunfire in separate incidents on March 15, 2016. I recommend you visit The Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc. at https://www.odmp.org for further details.