Final Tour: November 2016

The deadliest November in more than 20 years is the worst monthly loss in more than 5

By Dale Stockton  |   Dec 1, 2016

Twenty-one officers died in the line of duty during the month of November, making this the single deadliest month in more than five years and the deadliest November in more than 20 years. The loss of these officers brings the number of fallen officers during 2016 to 133, a rate of loss that is 13% greater than this same time last year.

But this year is significantly different than what we what we’ve seen the past few years because of a dramatic increase in gunfire deaths. Sixty (60) officers have died as the result of assailant gunfire this year with 12 of those deaths occurring this past month. Gunfire deaths are now up almost 70% when compared to this same time last year. Perhaps most troubling is that many of this year’s gunfire losses have been targeted attacks and ambushes rather than evolving out of specific police contact or enforcement action.

Meanwhile, vehicle-related losses (54) are up approximately 18% compared to same time last year. The only good news to report is that the frequency of heart-attack related LODDs is significantly less than what we were experiencing in 2015 (7 vs. 16).

Following the summary of November losses there will be important information regarding 2016 trends and what every officer needs to know to stay safe. On behalf of everyone at Calibre Press, I extend the deepest condolences to those who have lost an officer. Listed in order of occurrence, following are summaries of the losses for November.

Officer Jorge Sanchez, 53, Miami (Fla.) Police Department, was killed when his police motorcycle was struck by another vehicle at an intersection. Officer Sanchez was on his way to department headquarters when his motorcycle was struck from behind while stopped at a signal light. The vehicle that struck him then collided with four other vehicles. Officer Sanchez was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Officer Sanchez served with the Miami PD for 21 years and is survived by his three children and fiancé. His son is a Miami PD officer.

Officer Justin Martin, 24, Urbandale (Iowa) Police Department and Sergeant Anthony Beminio, 38, of the Des Moines (Iowa) Police Department, were shot and killed from ambush while sitting in their patrol cars shortly after 1:00 a.m. They were in different locations but were killed by the same suspect. Officer Martin was sitting in his patrol car when a subject approached and opened fire without warning, shooting into the driver’s side of the patrol car between 15 and 30 times. Nearby citizens called 911 to reports shots fired and responding officers located Officer Martin inside his vehicle. Officers from multiple agencies set up a perimeter and began searching the area. Approximately 20 minutes later and about two miles away, the same subject approached Sergeant Beminio’s patrol car and ambushed him. The suspect fled the scene but surrendered to law enforcement officers in Dallas County several hours after the killings. Officer Martin had served with the Urbandale Police Department for 15 months. Sergeant Beminio had served with the Des Moines Police Department for 11 years.

Sergeant Paul Tuozzolo, 41, New York City Police Department, was shot and killed after he and another officer located a suspect who had just held his estranged wife and her family hostage for several hours. At approximately 2:45 p.m. the man broke into his estranged wife’s home in the Bronx. During the ordeal, the man told his estranged wife that he was planning to engage in a shootout with police. He fled in a vehicle after the victim was able to call 911. Sergeant Tuozzolo and other officers subsequently located the suspect vehicle and boxed it in. As Sergeant Tuzzolo and another sergeant exited their patrol cars the subject opened fire with a .45 caliber handgun. Sergeant Tuozzolo was struck in the head and the other sergeant was struck in the leg. Officers at the scene returned fire, killing the suspect. Sergeant Tuozzolo had served with NYPD for 19 years and was assigned to the 43rd Precinct. He is survived by his wife and two young sons.

Sergeant Patrick Sondron, 41, Peach County (Ga.) Sheriff’s Office, was shot and killed after he and Deputy Daryl Smallwood, 39, responded to a neighbor dispute near Byron, Georgia, at approximately 5:30 p.m. Two residents in the area were riding ATVs on a roadway when they were confronted by a neighbor who threatened them with a firearm. The victims left the scene and called 911 to report the incident. Sergeant Sondron and Deputy Smallwood responded to the victims’ residence and interviewed them. After speaking to them they drove to the suspect’s home. As the two officers exited their patrol cars and began to walk down the driveway towards the home they were both shot by the subject. The original victims witnessed the shooting and again called 911 to report the shooting. Officers from numerous agencies responded to the location. The subject was located a short time later and fired at responding officers before being shot and taken into custody. Sergeant Sondron and Deputy Smallwood were taken to a local hospital where Sergeant Sondron died from his injuries. Deputy Smallwood died two days later. Sergeant Sondron is survived by his wife and three children. Deputy Smallwood left behind three children and a girlfriend.

Officer Cody Brotherson, 25, West Valley City (Utah) Police Department, was struck and killed by a vehicle that was being pursued by other officers. An officer from West Valley City PD observed three people walking from a stolen vehicle to a nearby apartment complex and then witnessed a suspect steal a vehicle from the complex parking lot. A pursuit began after officers attempted to stop the stolen vehicle. As officers tried to deploy spike strips, the suspect vehicle veered toward the officers and struck Officer Brotherson, killing him. The vehicle continued to flee and was involved in a collision several blocks away. Three subjects were taken into custody. Officer Brotherson had served with the West Valley City Police Department for three years. He is survived by his parents, two brothers, and fiancé.

Officer Darrin Reed, 50, Show Low (Ariz.) Police Department, was shot and killed after responding to a suspicious person call at a motel. Initially, officers were unable to locate the suspect but another call was received on the same person. When Officer Reed and other officers returned, they located the man but he fled and a foot pursuit followed. During the chase, the suspect fired a handgun, striking Officer Reed. He was transported to a local hospital where he died from his wounds. The suspect was later located in the Pinetop-Lakeside area, where he was barricaded in a cabin with a teenage hostage. After several hours of negotiation, the subject was shot and killed during an exchange of gunfire. Officer Reed was a U.S. Air Force veteran and had served with the Show Low Police Department for 10 years. He previously served with the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office for 10 years. Officer Reed is survived by his wife and two children.

Officer Jude Lewis, 46, New Orleans (La.) Police Department, succumbed to injuries sustained on June 1st, 2001, while responding to back up an officer who was involved in a foot pursuit. His patrol car left the roadway and struck a tree. He suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the crash and remained in a coma for six months afterwards. He never fully recovered and was unable to speak or walk. Officer Lewis was a U.S. Army veteran and had served with the New Orleans Police Department for three years at the time of the crash. He is survived by his sister.

Officer Scott Bashioum, 52, Canonsburg Borough (Penn.) Police Department, was shot and killed as he and Offcer Jimmy Saieva responded to a domestic disturbance call at approximately 3:15 am. The subject shot both officers and then tried unsuccessfully to ignite gasoline and propane containers. Despite great risk, other officers at the scene were able to evacuate the fallen officers. Both were transported to Canonsburg Hospital, where Officer Bashioum succumbed to his wounds. Officer Saieva was flown to Allegheny General Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery and survived. Tragically, the suspect murdered his wife before committing suicide. Officer Bashioum was a U.S. Air Force veteran and had served with the Canonsburg Borough Police Department for seven years. He is survived by his wife and children.

Deputy Dennis Wallace, 53, Stanislaus County (Calif.) Sheriff’s Department, was shot and killed at Fox Grove Park while investigating a suspicious vehicle. He requested a backup officer after dispatchers alerted him that the vehicle was stolen. When the second deputy arrived, he discovered Deputy Wallace had sustained two gunshot wounds to the head. The suspect had fled the scene in the stolen car and subsequently carjacked a second vehicle. The suspect was taken into custody by members of the Lindsay Police Department later in the day after attempting to steal a woman’s purse. Deputy Wallace had served with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department for 20 years. He is survived by his wife and children.

Deputy Justin White, 28, Newton County (Ga.) Sheriff’s Office, succumbed to injuries sustained in a vehicle crash on October 30, 2016, while responding to a medical emergency call. He was traveling around a curve on Highway 162 when his patrol car left the roadway and overturned. Deputy White, who was not wearing his seatbelt, became trapped inside the vehicle. Emergency crews extricated him from the vehicle and he was transported to Atlanta Medical Center where he later succumbed to his injuries. Deputy White had served with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office for four years. He is survived by his daughter and girlfriend.

Agent David Gomez, 44, U.S. Border Patrol, suffered a fatal heart attack while on bike patrol in El Paso, Texas. He and several other agents were riding on McKelligan Canyon Road when Agent Gomez suffered a heart attack and fell from his bike. The other agents immediately began CPR and continued lifesaving efforts until medics arrived. He was transported to a local hospital where he was kept on life support until passing away the following day. Agent Gomez had served with the United States Border Patrol for 20 years. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Assistant Commander Ken Starrs, 66, South Texas Specialized Crimes and Narcotics Task Force, was killed when his department vehicle was struck by a freight train at a crossing on County Road 2140, near Highway 77, in Kleberg County. Assistant Commander Starrs was on his way to the task force office when the collision occurred at an unprotected crossing. He had served with the task force for more than five years and had previously served with the Corpus Christi Police Department for 27 years and the Port of Corpus Christi Police Department for six years. He is survived by his wife, daughter and two grandchildren. At the time of his death, Assistant Commander Starrs served as the president of the Texas FOP State Lodge.

Deputy Commander Patrick Carothers, 53, U.S. Marshal’s Service, was shot and killed as he and other members of the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force attempted to serve a warrant on a subject in Long County, Ga. The man was wanted in South Carolina for attempted murder of police officers, domestic violence, and weapons violations. The task force had tracked the subject to a mobile home park near Ludowici. As the arrest team made entry into the home the subject opened fire with a rifle, striking Deputy Commander Carothers twice. Other members of the task force returned fire, killing the subject. Deputy Commander Carothers was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his wounds. He had served with the United States Marshal’s Service for 26 years and is survived by his wife and five children.

Detective Benjamin Marconi, 50, San Antonio (Texas) Police Department, was shot and killed from ambush while he was conducting a traffic stop at approximately 11:45 a.m. Detective Marconi was sitting in his patrol car during the stop when an unrelated subject stopped his car behind Detective Marconi’s patrol car. The man walked up to the passenger side of Detective Marconi’s patrol car and shot Detective Marconi once in the head. The man then leaned into the patrol car and shot Detective Marconi a second time. The subject fled but was later arrested by members of the San Antonio Police Department and Bexar County Sheriff’s Office SWAT teams. Detective Marconi had served with San Antonio PD for 20 years and is survived by his two children.

Deputy Eric Oliver, 32, Nassau County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office, was struck and killed by a vehicle while involved in a foot pursuit at approximately 7:30 a.m. He and another deputy had responded to assist U.S. Border Patrol agents who were interviewing several subjects at a gas station. One of the subjects fled on foot with Deputy Oliver and a second deputy in pursuit. Deputy Oliver was struck by a vehicle as he chased the subject across the roadway. The man being pursued remains at large. Deputy Oliver was a U.S. Navy veteran and had served with the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office for seven years. He is survived by his wife and 6-year-old daughter.

Trooper Eric Ellsworth, 32, Utah Highway Patrol, succumbed to injuries sustained when he was struck by a vehicle at approximately 9:45 p.m. after responding to a report of low hanging power lines in Box Elder County. He was waiting for the local power company to arrive and repair the line when he observed a large semi-tractor rig approaching. As he exited his patrol car to warn the driver of the obstruction he was struck by a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction. He was flown to Intermountain Medical Center in grave condition. He succumbed to his injuries four days later. Trooper Ellsworth had served with the Utah Highway Patrol for seven years. He is survived by his wife and three young sons. His father is a retired Utah Highway Patrol trooper.

Officer Collin Rose, 29, Wayne State University (Mich.) Police Department, succumbed to a gunshot wound sustained the previous day when he was questioning a suspicious person near the university’s downtown campus. He informed dispatchers that he was contacting a suspicious person in an area that had experienced a series of recent thefts. Officer Rose was shot in the head while trying to detain the subject. The killer fled the scene but was arrested later in the night. Officer Rose was a canine officer and had served with the Wayne State University PD for five years. He had previously served with the Richland Police Department. He is survived by his fiancé. Officer Rose was a member of the Police Unity Tour.

Trooper Cody Donahue, 34, Colorado State Patrol, was struck and killed by a commercial vehicle on northbound I-25 near Castle Rock. He was investigating a minor traffic crash when a commercial vehicle struck him while he was outside of his patrol car with another trooper. He was wearing a reflective vest at the time he was struck. Trooper Donahue had served with the Colorado State Patrol for 11 years. He is survived by his wife and two young childr

Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez, 45, Tacoma (Wash.) Police Department, was shot and killed after responding to a home on a report of a domestic dispute. Officer Gutierrez and another Tacoma officer responded to the Eastside residence and subsequently asked for priority backup. Shots were fired by a suspect and the Officer Gutierrez was hit. He was transported from the scene to General Hospital where he died in surgery. The suspect barricaded himself inside the house and used two children as shields. The standoff continued for several hours but ultimately the children were rescued without injury and the suspect was killed by a Pierce County Sheriff’s Office sniper. Several weapons were found inside the home. Officer Gutierrez had served with Tacoma PD for 17 years.

A Look at 2016 & Lessons Learned

So far in 2016, 60 officers have been killed by assailant gunfire, 54 have died in vehicle-related incidents, seven have died as the result of a heart attack, two have been killed by accidental (friendly) gunfire, two have succumbed to 9/11-related illness, two correctional officers died in assaults, two officers have drowned, one correctional officer was stabbed to death, one officer was lost in an aircraft crash, one correctional officer died in a fall and one officer succumbed to injuries after being thrown from a horse.

Gunfire & Tactical Considerations

Only twice in the last 20 years have losses attributable to assailant gunfire exceeded those lost in vehicle operations but it appears likely this will be the case for 2016. Perhaps most troubling is that several shootings have involved a single assailant who took on multiple officers and many shootings this year have been targeted ambushes. Preventing attacks from a determined assailant who is willing to die while trying to kill officers is an incredible challenge. However, there are some things you can do to move the odds in your favor.

High-risk activities: Activities like responding to a subject with a gun, warrant service, and taking a wanted felon into custody is risky. It’s always been a component of police work, but some of these officers died in situations where there was (or should have been) some realization of potential danger before they were killed. Different tactics, better cover, or slowing a situation down may save lives.

Armor: New advances in armor provide a higher level of coverage through plate carriers and the newer lightweight fibers (like Dyneema) make this a viable up-armor option when situations or environments indicate higher risk or long gun threat. Plate armor can save lives. Note: Do your research because this is an evolving area and you don’t need to weigh yourself down with heavy metal plates.

In-progress Events: Exercise caution when responding to in-progress incidents and tactically position yourself upon arrival to allow assessment before engagement whenever possible. Your tactical options and ability to perceive threats are much greater when you’re outside your vehicle and approaching on foot. Get there safely, park away from the incident, exit quietly and then listen for a moment. Communicate a plan and minimize cross-fire potential.

Other Considerations

As always, drive at speeds appropriate for conditions and wear your seatbelt (on and off duty). If you see others engaging in risky behaviors, have the courage to speak up and show them that you care about them, explaining how their actions could affect those who love them. Finally, make physical fitness a part of your daily routine. You don’t need to be in perfect shape. But you do need to be in good shape and you can begin or accelerate that process through healthier eating and more exercise—now!

Honor the Fallen

Below 100 trainers believe the best way to honor our fallen is by training the living. The sad truth is that many of our losses, including some this past month, were preventable and, candidly, they just didn’t have to happen. We all have a responsibility to improve officer safety, both individually and across the profession.

Remember the tenets of Below 100.

  • Wear your seatbelt.
  • Wear your vest.
  • Watch your speed.
  • WIN – What’s Important Now?
  • Remember: Complacency Kills!

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.

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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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