Eleven officers lost their lives during the month of October, bringing the toll for the year to 101 officers
. The number is a sobering reminder of how challenging the Below 100 goal is, but it's also a statement as to the progress we’ve made toward that goal. In spite of our most recent losses, we’re still down 32% from this time last year. A year ago, we had lost 148 officers in the line of duty—a difference of 47 more than this year. Let’s be clear: Even one LODD is one too many and every day without a loss is a victory.
Each fallen officer leaves a legacy that’s waiting to be told. It’s from these stories that we can learn how to prevent the deaths of others. If we don’t embrace these lessons, we’re dishonoring the fallen and we’re doomed to continue posting 160-plus losses year after year. That isn’t acceptable. Anyone who wears a badge or loves someone who does should be yelling, “Enough!” Responsibility for improving officer safety lies with each of us individually and across our entire profession.
On behalf of everyone at Law Officer, I extend the most sincere condolences to the coworkers, families and departments who have suffered a loss during the month of October. Tragically, one department—Nassau County, N.Y., PD—lost two officers this month.
Of the eleven LODDs in October, five died in vehicle collisions and two were shot and killed, one in a case of mistaken identity. One officer was fatally stabbed, one was beaten to death, one died in a training accident and one died of a heart attack.
In order of occurrence, here are the losses for October:
U.S. Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie
, 30, died in a friendly fire incident when he and other agents responded to a sensor alarm on the border. In the darkness and intense brush, the agents mistakenly identified each other as a threat. Ivie was killed and another agent wounded.
Trooper Blake Coble
, 47, Pennsylvania State Police, died after his patrol vehicle was struck by a semi-truck that had run a stop sign. Trooper Coble was nearing retirement and had served for almost 25 years.
Sgt. Paul Hernandez
, 67, Texas Department of Public Safety, died of a heart attack during physical readiness training in San Antonio. He had served more than 35 years.
Officer Jonathan Molina
, 29, El Paso, Texas, PD, died 10 days after suffering severe injuries in a beating. Officer Molina was off duty when he confronted three juveniles who had vandalized his car. After he identified himself as a police officer, one of the suspects punched him and knocked him to the ground. The suspect continued to beat him after he was knocked unconscious. Molina was a U.S. Marine combat veteran who had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Trooper Andrew David Fox
, 27, Virginia State Police, was struck and killed by an SUV while directing traffic that was leaving the state fair. He was wearing a reflective vest at the time.
Officer Peter Kneeland
, 62, Worcester, Mass., PD, died as a result of injuries sustained in 1991 when he was struck by an intoxicated driver who fled the scene. The incident caused Kneeland to suffer severe head injuries and he was in institutional care until the time of his death. He had been with the department 14 years at the time of his injury.
Officer Kelley Chase
, 38, Oklahoma City PD, died after suffering a head injury during a defensive tactics training session. He struck his head when he was thrown down on a mat. Although he remained conscious, he was unable to stand. He was transported to a hospital but died the next day. He had been sworn as a police officer five months prior.
Officer Joseph Olivieri
, 43, Nassau County, N.Y., PD, was killed when he was struck by a vehicle while investigating a traffic accident in the HOV lane of the Long Island expressway.
Officer Kevin Donnell Bowden
, 28, Prince George's County, Md., PD, died as a result of injuries suffered in a traffic crash. An investigation showed his vehicle was speeding when another vehicle pulled into its path, causing him to strike a utility pole. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.
Officer Arthur Lopez
, 29, Nassau County, N.Y., PD, was shot in the chest while contacting a driver he and his partner had observed involved in a hit-and-run crash. Officer Lopez wasn’t wearing body armor at the time of the shooting. The subject who shot Officer Lopez subsequently shot and killed a citizen during a carjacking. The shooter and an accomplice were subsequently arrested.
These fallen officers leave behind six grieving spouses and eleven children.
We must strive to change the LE culture to one that embraces both common sense and safety equipment. We know there are officers alive today because they have made the decision to wear their seat belts, wear their armor and drive at speeds reasonable for the circumstances. We have the evidence in real lives saved to prove it. It’s up to every officer to do your part. Have the courage to speak up when you see another officer taking unnecessary chances. Make sure your actions set a good example for others. Improving overall safety awareness among officers is key to lowering our annual LODD number. This means we must embrace a culture of safety in all areas.
Note: We rely on ODMP (www.odmp.org) for the official numbers and summaries that result in our monthly end-of-watch reports. I strongly encourage you (especially trainers!) to visit their site because so much can be learned from the LODD summaries that are provided.