(MEDIA GENERAL) – Four officers have been shot, and killed in less than 30 days. Seventeen in all this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) which tracks officer deaths. That’s a 113% increase in firearm-related deaths since this time last year.
The men who died are veterans of the force. One had previously survived an injury in the line of duty. Another had a baby on the way. They all leave behind family, friends and colleagues struggling to piece together what happened and why.
Two of the officers were serving warrants. One had approached a suspected gang member. And, one was ambushed during training at a bus station.
Ambushes are an especially troubling trend to the people who track officer deaths. Of the 17 firearm-related officer deaths so far this year, six have been ambushes.
“Those officers had no idea that they were in grave danger and they really didn’t have the opportunity to respond in a way that would have given them a chance to survive,” said Steve Groeninger with the NLEOMF.
The most recent officer’s death in Columbus, Ohio was while a warrant was being served. Groeninger says it’s important to remember all of the people touched by an officer’s death.
“An officer fatality represents a shattered family. It also affects the officers’ colleagues they serve with,” said Groeninger. “You’re dealing with officers who are grieving at the loss of a colleague, who are also helping the family process what has happened, and who are also making sure the community’s needs are still being met with less people on the workforce.”
Here’s what we know about the men behind the badges.
Columbus, Ohio: Officer killed had survived 2013 shootout shrapnel injury
Columbus, Ohio SWAT officer Steve Smith died, Tuesday, April 12, 2016. Smith, 54, was shot during a SWAT stand-off early Sunday morning. Smith and his fellow officers were trying to serve a warrant for arson when he was shot.
Officer Smith is married with two adult children, Jesse and Brittany. The 54-year-old was employed by the Columbus Division of Police for 27 years. His personnel file paints the picture of a highly trained officer with an exemplary record.
During his career, he worked on the streets as a patrol officer, in the air with the helicopter unit, in the water as part of the dive team and, most recently, as a sniper with SWAT.
In November of 2013, Smith was injured during a shootout in a parking lot near Easton. The SWAT team had confronted a murder suspect wanted for killing his ex-girlfriend and shooting a 9-year-old boy earlier that day. Smith was hit by shrapnel in the exchange of gunfire. For that incident, Smith was awarded a Blue Star and a Distinguished Service Medal.
Greenville, S.C.: Officer had a baby on the way
Officer Allen Jacobs, 28, was shot by a gang member Friday, March 18 in Greenville, South Carolina. The police chief says officers approached a self-admitted gang member, Deontea Mackey. Mackey ran from them and opened fire on the officer hitting Jacobs several times. Police say Jacobs’ weapon was still in his holster and snapped.
Police say Mackey then shot and killed himself.
Police describe Jacobs as a dedicated officer who worked on gang activity. He was a four-and-a-half-year veteran of the police department. He was married and was the father of two young boys. His wife is pregnant with the couple’s daughter due to be born in July.
Prior to joining the police department in 2011, he served in the US Army and was a decorated Iraq War veteran and received numerous medals and commendations for his service. He was ranked Police Officer III and served on the Community Response Team and S.W.A.T. team.
Howard County, Indiana: Liaison officer, deputy killed
A Howard County deputy was shot and killed while serving a warrant early Sunday morning, March 20.
Deputy Carl Koontz, 27, was hit in an exchange of gunfire. Koontz had been on the force for nearly three years. Indiana State Police said the suspect died of a gunshot wound. The Howard County Sheriff’s Department and the Russiaville Town Marshall were attempting to serve a warrant for drug paraphernalia.
Koontz leaves behind a wife and 8-month-old son.
His funeral, fittingly, took place in Northwestern High School, the same place where Koontz worked as a liaison officer.
“Carl went above and beyond the call of duty to minister to those kids, to help those kids,” said Pastor Steve Cole of Faith Church of Christ and also the leader of the funeral.
Although Koontz was only a deputy and had been with the department for less than three years, he already had high aspirations for his future. His ultimate goal was to serve and protect the community where he grew up in one of the highest positions possible.
Richmond, Va.: Officer killed at bus station
Virginia State Police Trooper Chad Dermyer, 37, died on March 31, 2016 after being shot at a Greyhound bus station. Police have identified the gunman as 34-year-old James Brown III of Aurora, Illinois.
Dermyer, a native of Jackson, Michigan, is survived by his wife and two children. Trooper Dermyer is the 62nd Virginia State Police Trooper to be killed in the line of duty during the Department’s 84-year history.
The incident happened during a Virginia State Police training exercise, according to officials. During the exercise, troopers were questioning passengers getting off of buses. Dermyer approached a male subject around 2:40 p.m. just inside the front doors of the bus station. While talking with the male subject, the man pulled out a handgun and shot the trooper multiple times. The trooper was not wearing a bullet-proof vest. Dermyer was in uniform at the time of the shooting.
Dermyer had just recently transferred to the state police Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Interdiction Unit. Prior to joining the state police, Trooper Dermyer served with the City of Newport News Police Department and the Jackson, Mich., Police Department. Dermyer also served our nation for four years with the U.S. Marine Corps.
While firearm-related deaths are up so far this year. Groeninger stressed that in 15 of the last 20 years, the majority of officer deaths have come from traffic-related incidents. The full list can be seen here. He says his organization is focused, in part, on helping officers remain safe on the roadways as well as when conducting other parts of their jobs.