Seattle police ambush: cop-killing rampages up this year

Sunday's police ambush near Seattle was the fifth shooting in which more than one police officer died. The 15 officers killed this year in multiple-shooting incidents is the highest since 2000.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

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    A Seattle police officer helps block a street adjacent to a north Seattle park where police searched for a suspect in the slaying of four police officers gunned down a day earlier, Monday.
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Sunday's shooting deaths of four police officers in suburban Seattle is the fifth such attack on law enforcement this year, adding a grim chapter to a year in which the number of shooting deaths of police officers nationwide is up.

In total, 15 officers have been killed in multiple-shootings incidents, up from four in 2008 and the most since 2000. Meanwhile, 44 officers total have been shot and killed in 2009, compared with 37 during the period last year – an increase of 19 percent.

This comes as police fatalities overall have dropped – from 122 on this date in 2008 to 113 this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). The decline is the result of a drop in traffic accidents, which is the largest cause of officer death, says NLEOMF spokesman Kevin Morison.

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Yet the multiple shooting incidents this year are causing alarm in the law enforcement community.

"It certainly is cause for concern to see these numbers," says Mr. Morison. "Policing remains an increasingly dangerous job and people are out there who remain intent on targeting officers."

Other incidents in 2009

• In March, four Oakland, Calif., police officers were shot and killed in a gun battle with a parolee.

• Two weeks later in Pittsburgh, three officers were fatally wounded while responding to a domestic disturbance call. The suspect was heavily armed and wearing a bulletproof vest.

• Also in April, two sheriff's deputies in Florida's Okaloosa County were killed trying to apprehend a man wanted in connection with a domestic disturbance.

• In July, two Oklahoma deputies were killed in July trying to arrest a 22-year-old man who failed to show up in court on charges he attempted to strangle his mother.

A far cry from the 1970s

Still, this year's number of police shot and killed is a dramatic drop from 2007, when 68 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty. And recent statistics are far from the numbers of the 1970s, when "an average of 126 officers a year were killed by gunfire," according to a recent NLEOMF report.

Sunday's shooting in Washington was "the deadliest attack on law enforcement in state history," according to the Seattle Times, and follows a Halloween night shooting death of an officer in Seattle. The suspect in that case is also charged with firebombing several police vehicles in what officials have said was a one-man crusade against the police.

Suspect was out on bail

The suspect in the Sunday shootings, Maurice Clemmons, remained at-large as of Monday afternoon. Mr. Clemmons has a long and violent criminal history. According to recent reports, there have also been questions about his mental health.

According to the Seattle Times, Clemmons was out on bail when the shooting occurred. He had been in jail pending a trial on second-degree child rape charges and made bail just six days ago.

So far there is no indication of any motive for the killing of the four officers.

"We're going to be surprised if there is a motive worth mentioning," Ed Troye, spokesman for the Pierce County, Wash., sheriff's department told the Associated Press. He said that police won't know what may have sparked the shooting deaths "until we get the case solved."

See also:

Mike Huckabee granted clemency to suspect in cop-killing ambush

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