According to the Officer Down Memorial page, 47 police officers were killed in 2019 by gunfire.
The first officer to die from gunfire in 2019 was 29-year-old Provo police officer Joseph Shinners. He was shot and killed on January 5, 2019, in Orem, Utah while attempting to arrest a wanted fugitive in a parking lot. During the arrest the man opened fire, fatally wounding Shinners. The suspect, who also was wounded in the shootout, was arrested.
The last police officer to be shot and killed in 2019 was Panola County Sheriff’s Deputy Sheriff Chris Dickerson. He was shot and killed on New Year’s Eve while making a traffic stop. During the stop the driver suddenly exited his vehicle and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, shooting Dickerson six times. The driver was arrested in the neighboring state of Louisiana after a pursuit.
It’s often difficult for the average person to understand the vigilance that police officers have to accept as part of doing their jobs every day. There are some who would even say police officers are “too paranoid” and their vigilance isn’t justified.
However, it’s not paranoia when the threats are real.
Forty-seven police officers were shot and killed last year. That’s forty-seven people with families, friends and loved ones who are now mourning their loss. Forty-seven men and women who sacrificed their lives to make our communities safer.
But the number 47 doesn’t really capture the full scope of the risks officers face from gunfire. For every police officer who is shot and killed there are those who have been shot and wounded, oftentimes with life-changing injuries.
There are also those who have been shot at and by luck and circumstance have not been hit. There is no database that captures that information.
According to website gunviolencearchive.org, a total of 301 police officers were injured by gunfire last year. The website captures information from over 7,500 sources to try and track how many officers have not just been killed in any given year but how many have been shot and injured.
For some, their wounds are traumatic enough to be career ending. That means in 2019, for every officer who died by gunfire there were over 5 more who were shot but didn’t die.
In 2019, include Fort Lupton Sgt. Chris Peleton who was shot in the face. He was responding to a home after the family said their daughter’s boyfriend was outside the residence with a gun. In news reports the 19-year-old suspect admitted ambushing the officer as he hid behind a fence.
Sgt. Peleton suffered lost teeth and his jaw was shattered. His recovery is expected to take months.
Denton Police Officer Urbano Rodriguez was on a car stop when he was shot twice. He suffered significant head injuries. The suspects were arrested after a pursuit. Rodriguez is currently in a rehabilitation unit working hard on what is expected to be a long recovery effort.
California Highway Patrol Officer Robert Paul suffered major leg injuries as he responded to the assistance of another officer during a traffic stop. The suspect, whose vehicle was being impounded, retrieved a semi-automatic rifle from his truck and opened fire over a hundred rounds at the officer. Officer Andre Moye was killed. Paul and another officer were both wounded.
Paul spent over two and a half months in the hospital for multiple surgeries and treatment of his wounds. He still faces a long road to recovery.
When people question why officers want to see their hands or want to check their pockets they need to understand that policing is a dangerous job and any mistake can be costly.
Joe is a retired police captain. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.