A police officer in Greenville, S.C., was fatally shot Friday while serving a warrant, officials said, further increasing what has been a sharp rise in the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty this year.
“We lose, we hurt, we ache, we feel this,” Ken Miller, chief of the Greenville police, said Friday. “Our community will too. Nobody wants to lose their officers.”
Officers were “serving a warrant on a self-admitted gang member” at about 12:20 p.m. when the shooting occurred, Miller said during a news briefing Friday. This man ran away when he saw the officers, and as they chased him, the man turned and opened fire at them, hitting one officer multiple times, Miller said.
The person who shot the officer “continued to flee and…took his own life,” Miller said. He added: “And as I understand it, called his mother just prior to doing it.”
There were other officers waiting where the man was running, Miller said. This man — who was not identified — shot himself when he saw them, according to Miller.
Police were not immediately identifying the officer until his relatives could be informed, Miller said. While authorities attempted CPR on the officer who was shot, Miller said he was pronounced dead a short time later.
“I’ve come to know this officer and his work ethic, and found him to be an extraordinary person and officer,” Miller said. “He was dedicated as anybody could be dedicated.”
The Greenville police officer is the 14th officer fatally shot in the line of duty this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, a nonprofit that tracks such deaths.
This toll is significantly up from the same time last year, when four officers had been shot and killed; one of these officers was accidentally shot during a training exercise.
Earlier this week, Jacai Colson — a 28-year-old undercover narcotics officer in Prince George’s County, Md. — was fatally shot during what police called an ambush outside of a police station. However, authorities soon said that Colson, who was wearing street clothes, was killed by a fellow officer who mistook him for the assailant.
Police officers have said they feel increasingly anxious amid ongoing protests over how law enforcement uses deadly force, though concerns about ambushes and being targeted predate these demonstrations.
“Some of these attacks have been launched by Islamic extremists or sovereign citizen types with a hatred of our government; others are being carried out by mentally deranged or cold blooded criminals who see police as the enemy,” Craig W. Floyd, chief executive of the memorial fund, said in a statement Friday. “In all cases, our officers are being targeted simply because of the badge that they wear and the job that they do.”
The circumstances surrounding these shootings this year have varied. A Philadelphia officer survived being ambushed by a man who later said he pledged loyalty to the Islamic State, police said. A sheriff’s deputy in Colorado was killed serving an eviction notice, while a Mississippi state narcotics officer was fatally shot when a home standoff turned violent. An officer in Utah was killed after someone who fled a car crash, and an Ohio officer was slain after police received a 911 call about a man targeting police.
More officers died on duty last year than in 2014, with the number rising to 124 officers in 2015 from 119 the year before, an increase that came from spikes in traffic-related deaths and job-related illnesses such as heart attacks, according to the memorial fund.
The number of officers fatally shot declined last year, as did the number of officers killed in “felonious incidents,” the memorial fund said in its annual report. There were 52 officers killed in felonious incidents, down from 61 deaths a year earlier, and 42 officers fatally shot, down from 49 the year before.
The number of officers fatally shot each year is significantly down from the 1970s, when an average of 127 officers were shot and killed each year. Between 2000 and 2009, an average of 57 officers were fatally shot each year.
Last year, the first officer killed by gunfire was John Gorman, director of investigations for the Mississippi Gaming Commission, who was accidentally killed in January 2015 during a training exercise. The first officer shot and killed by a suspect last year came three months later, when Georgia officer Terence A. Green was fatally shot in March.
In 2016, though, the first officers killed by gunfire died in January. While the number of officers fatally shot has risen, the number of officers who died in traffic accidents and from other causes is down from the same point last year.
A South Carolina police officer was fatally shot serving a warrant today, the 14th officer shot and killed this year https://t.co/9HPZO1LbbJ
— Mark Berman (@markberman) March 18, 2016