FEATURED IN BELOW 100
We lost a total of 10 officers during the month of April, four to vehicle-related incidents, three to gunfire and three to heart attacks. The heart attack toll is particularly remarkable because we have lost eight officers so far in 2013 to heart attacks. Perhaps even more significant, two of the officers who died of heart attacks this month were 32 and the remaining officer was only 47. Think about this in relation to yourself and those around you. This is a deadly area for our officers and one that we really need to take ownership of.
The 10 officers lost in April all went to work believing they would make it home to see their families. Sadly, none of them did and they leave behind parents, spouses, children and coworkers who now have only memories. On behalf of Law Officer, I extend condolences to every family member, coworker and agency that has experienced a line-of-duty death. Here are summaries of our losses during the month of April, listed by date of occurrence:
Sheriff Eugene Crum, 59, Mingo County, West Va., Sheriff’s Department, was shot and killed while sitting in his vehicle. He was eating lunch while conducting surveillance near the county courthouse. His assailant pulled alongside, exited his vehicle and shot Crum four times at close range. He fled the scene but was subsequently pursued and shot by a Mingo County deputy. He's currently in custody. The surveillance that Crum was conducting was related to a narcotics investigation. Since Crum’s death, more than a dozen people have been arrested as a result of extensive efforts targeting groups dealing in illicit drugs.
Detective Eric Smith, 40, Jackson, Miss., PD, was attacked by a homicide suspect while he was conducting an interview at the police station. The suspect disarmed Smith, shot him and then turned the gun on himself. Smith’s wife is an officer with Jackson PD.
Deputy Hans Fifer, 32, Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office, Ark., suffered a fatal heart attack after a training session related to testing for the agency’s SWAT team. He was given oxygen after experiencing shortness of breath but began suffering chest pains and collapsed. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.
Chief Anthony Barfield, Sr., 47, Barwick, Ga., PD, was at the scene of a domestic disturbance when he began having difficulty breathing and subsequently suffered a heart attack. He was transported to a medical facility but passed away shortly after arriving. He was the chief and sole officer at Barwick PD.
Officer Donald Bishop, 32, Brookfield Township, Wis., PD, was responding to a burglary call when he had a heart attack. His patrol car left the roadway and struck a tree. Other officers pulled him from the vehicle and began CPR. He was transported to a medical facility but died. Bishop also worked part-time as an officer for the Village of Eagle Police Department and had previously served with the Mukwanago Police Department.
Assistant Warden Peggy Sylvester, 50, Opelousas Police Department, La., died in a vehicle crash at approximately 0445 hours when she tried to pass another vehicle in a rain storm. She lost control of the vehicle and it left the roadway, striking a tree. Sylvester wasn't wearing her seat belt at the time of the crash and she suffered fatal injuries. She had previously served with the Eunice Police Department and the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Officer Sean Collier, 26, Mass. Institute of Technology PD, was murdered by the Boston bombing suspects while sitting in his car. The suspects tried to remove his handgun from his holster but were unsuccessful due to the holster’s safety retention capabilities. The suspects then carjacked a citizen and engaged in a pursuit and firefight where they threw bombs at pursuing officers. One officer was critically wounded in the gunfight. It's believed that Officer Collins was murdered for the sole purpose of obtaining his firearm.
Deputy Sheriff Douglas Hanna, 44, Washita County Sheriff’s Office, Okla., was responding to a call at 0010 hours when another vehicle ran a stop sign and struck the passenger side of his vehicle. The patrol vehicle rolled several times, partially ejecting Deputy Hanna even though he was wearing his seat belt. He was pronounced dead at the scene. It's unknown if Deputy Hanna was using emergency lights or siren at the time of the crash.
Deputy Sheriff Chad Christian Key, 42, Grayson County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office, was struck and killed while directing traffic at approximately 2242 hours along U.S. Highway 82. The driver who struck him was intoxicated and left the scene. He was apprehended a short time later. Deputy Key, who had worked as a corrections officer for more than three years, had served as a patrol deputy for only two months at the time he was killed.
Master Deputy Sheriff Joseph “Shane” Robbins, 40, Polk County Sheriff's Office, Fla., died in a single vehicle crash at approximately 0915 hours. He had been traveling westbound on Bomber Road when he left the roadway for unknown reasons and crashed. A nearby resident called 911 and emergency workers extricated Robbins from his patrol vehicle. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. He left behind a wife and five children.
The line-of-duty death toll for 2013 now stands at 39. Other than last year (a 50-plus year low!), you have to go all the way back to 1965 to find another year when fewer than 40 officers were lost in the first four months of the year. Every day without a line-of-duty death is a victory. Most of us have heard that awful phrase, “Every 53 hours an officer is killed.” Well, you know what? It doesn’t have to be that way and we should stop saying it because it isn’t true anymore! In fact, this year we’ve pushed that out to almost 74 hours! Let’s keep going and constructively work at driving down line of duty deaths to new lows.
No line-of-duty death should ever be considered as acceptable or without consequence. For those that do occur, we must learn the lessons that have been paid in blood. I challenge each of you to join the thousands of officers who are already engaged with Below 100, Law Officer’s initiative to reduce line-of-duty deaths to fewer than 100 per year. The time is now. We can do this. A core premise of Below 100 is targeting those deaths that are absolutely preventable (safety equipment not being used or actions clearly inconsistent with basic officer safety principles). If we do this, a lot more officers will make it home to their families at the end of watch. Check out www.Below100.com for more information.
Special thanks to our great partners at ODMP.org for keeping us all up to date on our losses and honoring the fallen. We rely on ODMP to provide the information that we share with you in these monthly updates.