FINAL TOUR: January 2017

Remembering the losses, learning the lessons

By Dale Stockton  |   Feb 10, 2017
Photo Dale Stockton.
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Thirteen officers were lost during January, 2017, a dramatic increase over January of 2016, when five officers were lost, but equal to the January loss in 2015. Of those lost last month, six died in vehicle-related incidents, five were killed by gunfire (one from an incident 31 years prior), one officer died as the result of a 9/11-related illness and one officer succumbed to a heart attack.

A summary of each loss is provided below, followed by information on officer safety that every officer and trainer should review. Remember: Each of you can help improve safety practices, both your own and that of others.

On behalf of everyone at Calibre Press, I extend the deepest condolences to the families and agencies who lost officers. Here are the January losses listed in order of occurrence.

Detective Chad Parque, 32, North Las Vegas (Nev.) Police Department, succumbed to injuries sustained the previous day, when his department vehicle was struck head-on by another vehicle at approximately 2:00 p.m. He had just left the North Las Vegas Justice Court when the other vehicle, which was traveling the wrong way on the roadway, struck his vehicle. A third vehicle then collided with his car. Rescue personnel extricated him and transported him to University Medical Center, where he passed away approximately 12 hours later. Detective Parque had served with the North Las Vegas Police Department for 10 years. He is survived by his wife, children, and siblings.

Lieutenant Debra Clayton, 42, Orlando (Fla.), was shot and killed when she encountered a wanted murder suspect in the parking lot of a Walmart. A citizen approached Lieutenant Clayton in the parking lot and said a wanted subject was inside the store. As she walked towards the building, the man exited and opened fire on her, striking her multiple times. The subject was wanted for murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and for shooting her brother one month prior. After shooting Lieutenant Clayton, the man carjacked a vehicle and fled the scene. A deputy from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office spotted the vehicle moments later and was shot at as he got behind it. The subject was captured eight days later. Lieutenant Clayton had served with the Orlando Police Department for 17 years. She is survived by her husband and son. She was posthumously promoted from the rank of Master Sergeant to the rank of Lieutenant.

Deputy First Class Norman Lewis, Orange County (Fla.) was killed in a motorcycle crash while participating in the search for the subject who had just murdered Lieutenant Debra Clayton, of the Orlando Police Department. The subject fled in a carjacked vehicle and shot at an Orange County deputy who located the vehicle. During the ensuing search, Deputy Lewis’ motorcycle collided with a vehicle that turned in front of him at the intersection of Pine Hills Road and Balboa Drive. Deputy Lewis had served with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for 11 years.

Detective Steven McDonald, 59, New York Police Department, died as the result of gunshot wounds he received 31 years earlier. Detective McDonald was on foot patrol in Central Park when he encountered a group of teenagers he believed were preparing to commit a robbery. He and his partner split up and started to follow the teens. Detective McDonald stopped them near the boathouse on Harlem Meer. As he questioned the subjects, one of them drew a concealed .22 caliber revolver and fired, striking Detective McDonald in the head and neck. Detective McDonald was transported to a local hospital where it was determined that his wounds had caused paralysis. After a lengthy rehabilitation, Detective McDonald was able to return home. He was confined to a wheelchair and needed the assistance of a machine to breathe. He served with the NYPD for 31 years and was assigned to the Central Park Precinct. The subject who shot Detective McDonald was paroled on September 6, 1995. Three days later he was killed in a motorcycle accident. Detective McDonald is survived by his wife and son, who followed in his father’s footsteps and serves with NYPD.

Chief Randy Gibson, 59, Kalama (Wash.) Police Department, died after experiencing respiratory distress while performing a high-stress arrest. He began to fall ill following the arrest and drove himself to a local hospital where he was treated. He was discharged at his own request and returned home, where he passed away a short time later. Chief Gibson was a U.S. Air Force veteran. He had served with the Kalama Police Department for six years and had previously served with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, Missouri, for 20 years. He is survived by his wife.

Sheriff Steve Ackerman, 46, Lea County Sheriff’s Office (N.M.), was killed in a single-vehicle crash on Highway 285, near Encino, in Torrance County. He was driving to Santa Fe on official business to join other sheriffs from throughout the state as they met with the state legislature. Sheriff Ackerman had served with the Lea County Sheriff’s Office for 14 years and had previously served with the Lea County Detention Center for 12 years. He is survived by his wife and children.

Detective Jerry Walker, 48, Little Elm (Texas) Police Department, was shot and killed after responding to a call involving an armed subject. Responding officers encountered the man standing behind a fence. As they ordered him to drop his weapon the man ran into a home and then started shooting out of the home’s windows. Detective Walker was struck in the neck by one of the rounds. He was flown to Medical City Denton where he succumbed to his wounds. The subject remained barricaded inside the home for several hours. Six hours after the initial shooting, he was found dead. Detective Walker was a U.S. Army veteran and had served with the Little Elm Police Department for 18 years. He is survived by his four children.

Deputy Colt Allery, 29, Rolette County (N.D.) Sheriff’s Office, was shot and killed following a vehicle pursuit of a stolen vehicle that ended near Belcourt, North Dakota. Deputies and an officer from the Rolla Police Department located the stolen vehicle after being alerted to its location by a remote monitoring company. The driver of the vehicle failed to stop and led officers on a pursuit until the car was remotely disabled on a gravel road by the monitoring company. As the vehicle came to a stop, the occupant engaged the officers in a shootout in which he and Deputy Allery were both killed. Deputy Allery had served with the Rolette County Sheriff’s Office for three months and had served in law enforcement for five years. He had previously served with the Rolla Police Department, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians Tribal Police Department, and as a corrections officer with the Rolette County Sheriff’s Office.

Officer Raymond Murrell, 27, Bloomingdale (Ill.) Police Department, was killed in a vehicle crash while responding to a larceny in progress. His patrol car left the roadway and struck a utility pole at the intersection of Army Trail Road and Cardinal Drive. Emergency crews extricated him from his vehicle and transported him to a hospital where he passed away a short time later. It is believed that bad weather may have contributed to the crash. Officer Murrell had served with the Bloomingdale Police Department for less than one year and had previously served with the Cook County Department of Corrections.

Officer Michael Louviere, 26, Westwego (La.) Police Department, was shot and killed while off duty when he stopped to assist at what he believed to be an accident scene. He was in uniform and driving home at approximately 6:30 a.m when he encountered the crash scene at an intersection. Unbeknownst to Officer Louviere, the crash was the result of a domestic violence incident. As Officer Louviere tended to an injured woman in one of the vehicles, a male subject approached him from behind and shot him in the back of the head, killing him. The man then fatally shot the female before fleeing the scene. The subject who shot Officer Louviere later committed suicide following a standoff on the Crescent City Connection bridge. Officer Louviere was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and had served with the Westwego Police Department for 18 months. He is survived by his wife, 4-year-old daughter, and 1-year-old son.

Officer David Fahey, 39, Cleveland (Ohio) Police Department, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on I-90, near Warren Road, while assisting at the scene of a fatal accident at approximately 6:00 a.m. He was setting out flares to divert traffic off of the highway when he was struck by an oncoming car. The vehicle fled and the driver was arrested later in the day. Officer Fahey was a U.S. Navy veteran and had served with the Cleveland Police Department for 2-1/2 years.

Officer Nathan Graves, 45, Sac and Fox Nation Tribal (Okla.) Police Department, was killed when his patrol car was struck head-on by an oncoming vehicle on US 99while he was on patrol near the Lincoln County-Payne County line in Oklahoma. The oncoming vehicle was attempting to pass another car when the collision occurred at approximately 6:00 a.m. Officer Graves had served with the Sac and Fox Nation Police Department for 2-1/2 years and also worked for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. He had previously served with the Stroud Police Department and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Police Department. He is survived by his wife and children.

Deputy Chief James Molloy, 55, New York Police Department, died of brain cancer that he contracted as a result of inhaling toxic materials as he participated in the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Deputy Chief Molloy was driving to work when authorities stopped traffic through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel as the towers burned. When the towers collapsed, massive waves of toxic dust and debris flooded into the tunnel. Chief Molloy, covered in dust, went to Ground Zero and began working to rescue victims. Chief Molloy was assigned to the Ground Zero site for several months, where he supervised the recovery and clean-up efforts. Chief Molloy served with the New York City Police Department for 35 years in many assignments, including as the commander of the elite Emergency Service Unit and Detective Borough Queens. He is survived by his wife and daughters. Deputy Chief Molloy was a graduate of the 193rd Session of the FBI National Academy.

Lessons in Survival

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. Since we’re early in the year, the following discussion will include some comments derived from activities in 2016 and some longer-term perspective derived from reviewing thousands of ODMP summaries.

Vehicle Operations: Over the last 20 years, the number of officers lost as the result of vehicle-related incidents has exceeded the number of gunfire deaths by 25%. Vehicle operations and roadway practices are areas where we can definitely improve and it’s time for everyone who wears a badge to take substantive steps to increase officer safety through improved vehicle safety. Seatbelts should be a given, speed awareness is critical, and officers need to wear reflective gear when investigating roadway incidents or directing traffic.

Half of fatal police crashes are single-vehicle with speed as the primary factor. Tragically, many of these officers were not on any type of emergency run. If someone you know is driving recklessly or not wearing his or her seatbelt, explain to them why this is unacceptable. 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!

Gunfire Attacks: Ambush attacks, unprovoked attacks, and incidents of a single assailant killing multiple officers all increased significantly in 2016. There’s little doubt that the level of hostility to law enforcement remains high and it’s absolutely a time for vigilance.

If you’re recognizable as law enforcement, wear your armor. This includes training days and administrative or office assignments. If you’re in a plainclothes assignment, consider your armor as a highly-recommended option and a mandate when working the field or making suspect contacts. A suit coat or polo shirt offers zero ballistic protection. It’s also appropriate for officers to explore their “up-armor” options. In some parts of the country, plate carrier vests are becoming increasingly common. Products like Dyneema give you more protection with less weight.

Check premise history when available, especially on domestic violence calls. When situationally appropriate, consider having the reporting party come to the curb for a meet instead of going to the door.

Officers should consider using a passenger-side approach during traffic stops and continually use contact and cover techniques when working with another officer. If you’re not familiar with contact and cover, check Google. You’ll find it’s super simple and it works. Overall, improved tactics are paying off but complacency can turn any situation deadly in an instant. Be especially aware of tasks, regardless of risk, that you do on a regular basis because familiarity and frequency can open the door to complacency.

Self-Treatment: The ability to self- or buddy-treat gunfire wounds is making a huge difference in saving lives. Every officer should carry at least one tourniquet on his or her person and know how to use it. A robust first-aid kit should be close by too.

Officer Health: After vehicles and gunfire, heart attacks have consistently been the third leading cause of death for police officers. During the period of 2014 through 2016, 43 officers succumbed to duty-related heart attacks.

This is not an “old guy” problem. The youngest was only 23, another was only 26 and many of the officers were in their 30’s and 40’s. It’s time to acknowledge this deadly killer and to become proactive. No one has more control over their health than the individual officer. At a minimum, officers should know their blood pressure, cholesterol level, body mass index and family history—and seek to improve it. This is another area where a courageous conversation can make a difference.

Below 100

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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