Final Tour: November 2015

A deadly November, and what we must do in the service of their memories

By Dale Stockton  |   Dec 2, 2015
Photo Dale Stockton

With one month remaining in 2015, the line of duty death toll now stands at 116. Of those, 47 have been lost in vehicle-related incidents, 37 to gunfire, and 32 to other causes, the majority of which have been duty-related heart attacks or illness. We’re slightly lower (4%) than where we were at this time last year. Eleven officers died during November.

A summary of each loss is provided below, followed by information on LODD trends that every officer and trainer should review. Remember: Each of you can make a difference in officer safety, both your own and that of others.

Details on November Losses
Of the 11 officers who died during November, five died as a result of vehicle-related incidents, five died due to gunfire, and one died as the result of exposure to toxic chemicals on 9/11. Listed in order of occurrence, following are the summaries of those who served their final tour during this past month.

Officer Bryce Hanes, 40, San Bernardino (Calif.) Police Department, was killed when his patrol car was struck by a drunk driver at an intersection in the city of Ontario at approximately 2:15 a.m. Hanes was returning to his patrol area after transporting a prisoner. He was driving through an intersection when another driver ran a red light and collided with his patrol car. Hanes was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. The other driver was taken into custody and charged with DUI and gross vehicular manslaughter. Hanes had served with SBPD for 12 years and is survived by his wife and three young children.

Officer Daniel Ellis, 33, Richmond (Ky.) Police Department, was shot while trying to apprehend an armed robbery suspect in an apartment complex. Multiple subjects had robbed a customer at a gas station earlier in the morning and a witness gave police a vehicle description that led officers to the apartment. A male subject who answered the door denied that the robbery suspect was inside and then gave officers consent to search the apartment. As Ellis entered a back bedroom, the robbery suspect, who was a parolee, opened fire and struck Ellis in the head. His partner returned fire and wounded the subject. Ellis was taken to the University of Kentucky Hospital where he died two days later from his wounds. Three people were arrested and held in connection with the robbery and the murder of Officer Ellis. He had served with the Richmond Police Department for seven years and is survived by his wife and two children.

Officer Stacy Case, 37, Columbia (S.C.) Police Department, was killed in a vehicle crash when her patrol car was struck at an intersection by another patrol unit operated by an officer from the University of South Carolina Police Department. Both units were responding to a call of shots fired when the collision occurred at approximately 10:30 p.m. Case was transported to Palmetto Health Richland Hospital where she succumbed to her injuries a short time later. The report of shots fired was determined to be a suicide. A subsequent investigation of the crash revealed that neither officer involved in the crash had been wearing a seatbelt and that Officer Case had driven into the intersection against a red light. She had served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army for 15 years and had served with the Columbia Police Department for four years.

Chief Darrell Allen, 43, Marlin (Texas) Police Department, succumbed to a gunshot wound sustained 10 days earlier while struggling with a subject inside of a club in Temple, Texas. Chief Allen and another Marlin PD officer were working a secondary employment assignment at the club when Allen attempted to arrest a subject for creating a disturbance at approximately 1:20 a.m. The man produced a handgun and shot Allen in the face as the two struggled. The subject was arrested by the other Marlin officer and the Temple Police Department took custody of the subject. Chief Allen had served in law enforcement for 21 years and is survived by his wife and children.

Trooper Jaimie Jursevics, Colorado State Patrol, was struck and killed by a drunk driver while investigating a minor crash on I-25 in Douglas County. She was outside of her vehicle when she was hit by a car at approximately 8:50 pm. Trooper Jursevics succumbed to her injuries at the scene. The driver who struck her fled the scene but was arrested a short while later by members of the Palmer Lake Marshal’s Office. He was charged with DUI, careless driving resulting in death, and other charges. Trooper Jursevics had served with the Colorado State Patrol for just under five years. She is survived by her husband and young child.

Officer Ricky Galvez, 29, Downey (Calif.) Police Department, was shot and killed while he sat in his vehicle in the Downey Police Department parking lot at approximately 11:00 p.m. Officer Galvez was preparing to go off duty when he was approached by three suspects. One of the suspects fired into Officer Galvez’s car, fatally wounding him. Another officer who was nearby heard the shots and pursued the subjects into the neighboring city of Montebello, where they bailed out of their vehicle and eluded officers. The three suspects were apprehended the next day and charged with murder. The initial investigation indicates the incident was a botched robbery. Officer Galvez was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and had served with the Downey Police Department for five years. He is survived by his mother, brother, and sisters.

Corporal William Solomon, 43, Georgia Ports Authority Police Department, succumbed to injuries sustained on March 2nd, 2015, when he was struck by a drunk driver at the Garden City Terminal in Savannah, Ga. Solomon was directing traffic at the facility when he was struck by a tractor trailer driven by a drunk driver. He was transported to a local hospital in critical condition and remained in a coma until dying from complications related to his injuries. Solomon was a U.S. Army veteran and had served with the Georgia Ports Authority Police Department for eight months. He had previously served with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. He is survived by his wife and children.

Special Investigator Diane DiGiacomo, 51, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, N.Y., died as the result of cancer that developed following prolonged exposure to toxic materials while conducting search and rescue operations after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. DiGiacomo and other agents from the ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement division were assigned to search for abandoned animals in homes and apartments in a restricted area around the World Trade Center site that had been evacuated. DiGiacomo spent three months around Ground Zero participating in the operation and other recovery tasks. She later developed a cancer that was directly attributed to her exposure to the toxins in the area. DiGiacomo was one of the officers regularly profiled on the reality television show Animal Precinct.

Officer Ryan Copeland, 33, McFarland (Wis.) Police Department, was killed in a vehicle collision in the town of Albion, at approximately 12:30 p.m. He was just beginning his shift and was traveling westbound when a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources pickup truck crossed the center line and struck his patrol car head-on. Officer Copeland succumbed to his injuries at the scene. Officer Copeland was a U.S. Army veteran and had served with the McFarland Police Department for three years.

Officer Garrett Swasey, 44, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Police Department, was shot and killed after responding to an active shooter at a Planned Parenthood clinic shortly after 11:30 a.m. A subject armed with a rifle had entered the facility and opened fire on employees and patients before barricading himself inside. Officer Swasey was among the initial responders and was fatally shot at the scene along with two civilians. Three Colorado Springs PD officers, one El Paso County Sheriff’s Office deputy and four civilians suffered gunshot wounds during the incident. A SWAT team took the subject into custody inside the building approximately five hours later. Officer Swasey had served with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs PD for six years. He is survived by his wife, son, and daughter.

Officer Lloyd Reed, 54, St. Clair Township (Penn.) Police Department, was shot and killed after responding to a domestic disturbance call in New Florence. Officer Reed was shot as he arrived on scene but managed to return fire and wound the shooter. The man fled but was arrested by members of the Pennsylvania State Police approximately six hours later, suffering a gunshot wound in the shoulder. Officer Reed was transported to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. He had served with the St. Clair Township PD for five years. He had previously served with the Seven Springs Borough PD, the Hooversville Borough PD, and the Seward Borough PD for a combined total of 25 years. He is survived by his wife.

Lessons Learned

We owe it to the fallen to examine every LODD and identify lessons that can be passed on to other officers. This is especially important for trainers and FTOs. With eleven months of 2015 now behind us, here are some important observations on the trends that we’ve seen over the course of this year.

Vehicle-related deaths continue to be the leading cause of death for police officers. So far this year forty-seven officers have died in vehicle-related incidents (three of these were motor officers and one was on an ATV). That’s a slight increase (5%) over this same time last year and significantly greater than our losses due to gunfire.

This is an area where we can definitely improve officer safety. Far too many officers are lost in crashes where they are not wearing their seat belt, the most basic piece of safety equipment that we have. Sadly, we saw this happen during this past month. Approximately half of our fatal crashes are single-vehicle and the most common element is an officer rushing to aid another officer or cover on a call.

Remember: You can’t help if you don’t get there and you actually make the situation worse if you crash because you pull away needed resources! Now is the time to have that courageous conversation with fellow officers who you know drive at speeds that are unsafe or drive without their seatbelt. Tell them that you care and that their family and department need them.

Gunfire deaths remain significantly lower than what we’ve seen over the past several years despite a recent surge in unprovoked attacks. Overall, losses from gunfire are down 16% compared to this same time last year and last year was relatively low when viewed long term. However, the general tenor towards police officers continues to be hostile and assaults have been frequent. This is a tough time for officers everywhere and increased vigilance is warranted. Body armor should be worn by every officer who is working and identifiable as a police officer. 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.

Line-of-duty heart attacks have now taken 17 of our fellow officers during 2015. This is much greater than the number of officers killed in ambush shootings. The youngest heart attack LODD was only 23, another was only 26 and nine of the fallen officers were in their 40s. The oldest thus far has been 55.

This deadly trend should be of great concern to all—heart attacks have consistently been the third-leading cause of death for police officers. It’s time to acknowledge this reality and to become proactive. No one has more control over your health than you. At a minimum, know your blood pressure, your cholesterol level, your body mass index and your family history—then do something about it! This is another area where a courageous conversation can make a difference. It’s a tough one but could save a life.

Officer-Safety Basics

Improved tactics are showing 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.

The ability to self- or buddy-treat gunfire wounds is making a huge difference and many officers are alive today because of a tourniquet. Every officer should carry one, have it immediately accessible and know how to use it. Remember your safety equipment, body armor, seatbelts and reflective gear work, but only when they’re used.

Below 100

None of those lost during 2015 believed their final tour of duty would take their life. For many, their deaths could easily have been prevented. It is clear that we can dramatically improve officer safety by simply exercising common sense. That’s the cornerstone principle of Below 100, the most successful officer safety program in the history of law enforcement.

Below 100 is not about a specific number. It’s about every person who wears a badge taking individual and collective responsibility for officer safety. We must continually challenge ourselves to learn from our losses and prevent future tragedies. Just as important: we must have the courage to speak up and engage other officers when their actions are putting themselves or others at risk. Courageous conversations with those who take unnecessary chances are key to improving officer safety. Confronting a fellow officer is never easy, but it’s far better than going to their funeral.

Ask yourself this question right now: “If I had to predict where the next LODD or serious injury will come from in my agency, where would it be?” If you can answer that (and many of you already have not only a situation but a specific individual in mind), then do something about it!

Please, for the sake of your family, your department and your own life, remember the tenets of Below 100:

Wear your belt.

Wear your vest.

Watch your speed.

WIN – What’s Important Now?

Remember: Complacency Kills!

Special thanks to our ODMP partners for the LODD summary information. For more information, go to www.ODMP.org. For more information on Below 100 and where you can get training, go to www.Below100.org.

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Dale Stockton
Dale Stockton is the former editor in chief of Law Officer magazine, and a 32-year-veteran of law enforcement. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the California Supervisory Leadership Institute, the FBI Southwest Command College and holds a graduate degree from the University of California School of Criminology, Law and Society. He has served as a Commissioner for California POST, the agency responsible for all California policing standards. Stockton has been nationally recognized as the most widely published public safety photographer and writer in the country and taught college level criminal justice classes for 20 years. He has presented nationally at conferences in partnership with the National Institute of Justice and International Association of Chiefs of Police. Stockton is a founder, core instructor and current board member of Below 100. You can follow him on Twitter @DaleStockton.
Dale Stockton

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