Ten of our fellow officers lost their lives during the month of February, bringing the total loss for 2016 so far to 14. This is a dramatic uptick from the four officers lost in January but we must put things in perspective: before this year the average loss (over a 20-year period) for the month of January was 15 alone. What is most significant and should be of concern to every officer is that nine of the ten deaths in February were due to hostile gunfire. The remaining officer was lost in an aircraft crash that also killed the civilian pilot.
So far in 2016, twelve officers have been killed by gunfire, one died in a vehicle crash, one was struck by a vehicle and, as mentioned above, one was lost in an aircraft crash. Compared to last year at this time we’re down 18% overall. Vehicle-related deaths are down 75% while gunfire deaths are up a staggering 1,100%. However, it should be pointed out that these percentages tend to be magnified because we’re only two months into the year and the statistical variance is amplified by virtue of the short period of comparison and because last year saw a real anomaly: the first death in 2015 did not occur until March 4. In other words, we went all of January and February of 2015 with no hostile-gunfire deaths.
Regardless, the number of gunfire deaths in 2016 thus far is of serious concern and we’ll address it in greater detail after the summaries of those lost during February. In chronological order, here are the names and stories of those who served their final tour during this past month:
Sergeant Jason Goodding, 39, Seaside (Ore.) Police Department, was shot and killed as he and another officer attempted to serve a warrant on a subject at approximately 9:30 p.m.
They observed the subject walking along the street and recognized him as having an active felony warrant. The subject resisted arrest and a Taser was deployed. However, the subject was able to shoot Sgt. Goodding. Another officer on scene was able to return fire and killed the subject who had a lengthy felony record and history of resisting officers. Goodding had served with the Seaside Police Department for 13 years. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
Deputy Sheriff Scott Ballantyne, 52, Tulare County (Calif.) Sheriff’s Office, and Mr. James Chavez, a civilian pilot, were killed in an airplane crash near Lake Success at approximately 4:15 p.m. The aircraft was assisting deputies on the ground search for a subject wanted for brandishing a firearm. It was preparing to leave the area after the suspect was arrested when it suddenly lost altitude and crashed into a mountain near Springville. Deputy Ballantyne and Mr. Chavez were the only two occupants of the CTLE ultralight. Deputy Ballantyne had served with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office for 27 years and is survived by his mother and sister.
Deputy Sheriff Derek Geer, 40, Mesa County (Colo.) Sheriff’s Office, succumbed to gunshot wounds sustained the previous day while attempting to question a juvenile in Grand Junction at approximately 11:15 a.m. He and other deputies were investigating reports of an armed subject in the area and spotted the juvenile, who matched the description of the subject. As Deputy Geer spoke to the juvenile, the boy asked him if he was being detained. When Deputy Geer told him that he was being detained the boy pulled away from him and a struggle ensued. Deputy Geer deployed a Taser, but the subject was able to pull out a handgun and open fire. Deputy Geer was struck multiple times, including in the face. He was able to radio for assistance but had become unresponsive by the time another deputy arrived at his location. He was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital where he remained on life support so his organs could be donated. The juvenile was arrested a short time later after being found hiding in the backyard of a nearby home. Deputy Geer was a U.S. Navy veteran and had served with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office for 15 years. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Senior Deputy Mark Logsdon, 43 and Senior Deputy Patrick Dailey, 52, Harford County (Md.) Sheriff’s Office, were shot and killed by a wanted subject shortly before noon. The deputies had been dispatched to a restaurant in Abingdon, after a report was received that a subject was creating a problem. Deputy Dailey located the man sitting at a table inside of the restaurant and sat down to engage him in a conversation. Without warning, the man produced a handgun and fatally shot Deputy Dailey in the head. The man fled into the parking lot where other deputies located him sitting in a car. The subject opened fire on the deputies, striking Deputy Logsdon. Despite being wounded, Deputy Logsdon was able to return fire, along with other deputies, killing the subject. Deputy Logsdon was a U.S. Army veteran and had served with HCSO for 16 years. He is survived by his wife, three children, and parents. Deputy Dailey was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and had served with HCSO for 30 years. He is survived by his two children and mother.
Major Greg Barney, 51, Riverdale (Ga.) Police Department, was shot and killed while assisting members of the Clayton County Police Department at an apartment complex in Riverdale. Major Barney, who was not wearing body armor, was standing perimeter while other officers served a warrant at an apartment. When officers knocked on the door the subject fled through the back door and encountered Major Barney. The subject shot Major Barney four times in the torso and arm and continued to flee. A Clayton County officer confronted the subject and shot him a short distance away. Major Barney was transported to Southern Regional Medical Center where he succumbed to his gunshot wounds. Major Barney was a U.S. Navy veteran and had served with the Riverdale Police Department for 26 years. He is survived by his wife and children.
Officer Jason Moszer, 33, Fargo (N.D.) Police Department, was shot and killed after responding to a domestic violence call at approximately 7 p.m. The subject, who was armed with multiple long guns, barricaded himself inside his home and told dispatchers he was going to shoot at officers. The subject fired multiple rounds at officers and struck Officer Moszer, who had set up on a perimeter location. No other officers were hit. The man’s body was located inside the home by a SWAT team after an 11-hour standoff. He had sustained a gunshot wound and it was unclear as to whether the wound was self-inflicted or had been the result of police returning fire. Officer Moszer was a member of the North Dakota National Guard and had served with the Fargo Police Department for six years. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Special Agent Lee Tartt, 44, Mississippi Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Narcotics, was shot and killed as he and members of a Mississippi DPS SWAT team attempted to make entry into a home during a barricade situation near Iuka, Mississippi. A male subject had taken his wife and child hostage in the home during a domestic dispute, but later allowed them to leave during a standoff which lasted approximately six hours. The man opened fire on officers as they entered the house and Agent Tartt was fatally wounded. Three other team members were struck by gunfire. The subject was shot and killed. Agent Tartt had served with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics for 16 years and had served in law enforcement for 22 years. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Corporal Nate Carrigan, 35, Park County (Colo.) Sheriff’s Office, was shot and killed as he and seven other deputies served a high risk eviction order at a home in Bailey, Colorado, at approximately 9:15 a.m. The subject named on the eviction order was an activist in the Occupy Denver movement. The subject exited the home and then reentered it, with Corporal Carrigan and other deputies following him inside while trying to stop him. The man was able to grab a rifle and opened fire, killing Corporal Carrigan and wounding the other two deputies. The subject was shot and killed by return gunfire. Corporal Carrigan had served with the Park County Sheriff’s Office for 12 years. He is survived by his children, parents, sister, and two brothers.
Officer Ashley Guindon, 28, Prince William County (Va.) Police Department, was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance in the Lake Ridge area. The male subject at the home murdered his wife and then opened fire on the officers with a rifle as they approached the home. Officer Guindon was fatally wounded and two other officers, including her training officer, were struck by gunfire but survived. The man who shot the officers was subsequently arrested and charged with capital murder and other charges. Officer Guindon had been sworn in the previous day and was working her first day on the street with her training officer. She was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
Several of the deaths this past month involved high risk activities like warrant service, responding to a subject with a gun and taking a wanted felon into custody. Law enforcement is not without risk, but some of these officers died in situations where there was some realization of potential danger before they were killed. Different tactics, better cover or slowing a situation down may have saved lives. It is not the intent of this column to second-guess specific actions or decisions made by those who have fallen but rather to challenge all officers to take reasonable steps to improve safety and increase their odds of winning deadly encounters.
Review Your Tactics
Improved training and tactics are showing significant benefit, but complacency can turn any situation deadly in an instant. Consider using a passenger-side approach during traffic stops and continually maintain a “contact-and-cover” style of engagement when working with other officers. Exercise caution when responding to in-progress incidents and tactically position yourself upon arrival to allow assessment before engagement whenever possible. Remember that concealment is not cover and this is especially important when dealing with a subject who has a long gun.
Wear Your Body Armor
After a seat belt, body armor is probably the most important piece of safety equipment for police officers. There is no denying that today’s officers are operating in a very hostile environment and unprovoked assaults have become more frequent.
Body armor should be a given for every uniformed officer, including administrators. This includes any time you are in uniform or driving a marked unit, even if you’re not on patrol. Remember, the bad guys don’t know that you’re on a training day or assigned to administration. Body armor works but only if you wear it.
Think WIN – What’s Important Now?
The Below 100 tenet of WIN squarely targets situational awareness and prioritization. There’s so much in our environment that competes for our attention that it’s easy to become distracted. We routinely counsel citizens to pay attention and not use their cellphones when walking through a parking lot or unfamiliar area. This should be doubly true for a law enforcement officer. Talking, texting and typing on the MDC are all tasks that take your attention away from your environment. Officers must be fully aware of the evolving circumstances and continually reassess their situation. Thinking WIN can save your life.
Remember: Complacency Kills!
When it comes to complacency, the reality is that complacency dramatically increases the danger of almost any police action or engagement and every officer must continually strive to maintain a degree of vigilance and readiness. Doing so isn’t easy but failing to do so can result in deadly consequences.
Going into dangerous situations without adequate cover or engaging too quickly has been the story behind many police losses. The Navy SEALS have a great saying, “Don’t run to your death.” If you know an officer who tends to push the envelope or take unnecessary chances, take the time to tell them that you care and that their family and department needs them. You might also point out that they’re actually endangering others who may have to come to their rescue. Confronting a fellow officer is never easy, but it’s far better than going to their funeral. Don’t wait because you may not get a second chance.
Honor the Fallen
Below 100 trainers believe the best way to honor our fallen is by training the living. We know that those who have made the ultimate sacrifice would want nothing less. Below 100 is a program that embraces common sense officer safety by focusing on five core tenets:
- Wear your belt.
- Wear your vest.
- Watch your speed.
- WIN – What’s Important Now?
- Remember: Complacency Kills!
It must be said again and again that cops do not have to die in the numbers that we have seen over the past three decades. We’re making headway in lowering our losses but we must not stop and we must not waiver in our efforts. This is literally a matter of life and death. We have made more progress than many thought was possible, but it has come at the expense of hard-learned lessons based on the sacrifices of thousands of fallen officers. For more information visit Below 100. Special thanks to the Officer Down Memorial Page for their assistance in providing line-of-duty death information that forms the basis for the Final Tour series.