First Look

From Goforth to Gliniewicz: Are fatal shootings police officers on the rise?

The recent deaths of Lt. Charles Gliniewicz in Illinois and Deputy Darren Goforth in Texas have brought new attention to the risks members of law enforcement face on the job.

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    Mourners attend a vigil for slain Fox Lake Police Lieutenant Charles Joseph Gliniewicz in Fox Lake, Ill., on Wednesday. Officer Gliniewicz was also known as G.I. Joe. Authorities in northern Illinois expanded their search for three suspects in the fatal shooting of a 30-year police officer as local schools were closed on Wednesday and vigils for the officer were planned.
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Authorities in Illinois have expanded the hunt for three suspects wanted in the fatal shooting of a popular police officer.

The death of Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz on Tuesday morning is the third law enforcement fatality in Illinois this year, according to the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Across the United States, eight law enforcement officers have been fatally shot in the past month.

On Friday, Harris County Sheriff Deputy Darren Goforth was gunned down while pumping gas in Texas. Authorities have said that he may have been targeted because he was in uniform. Shannon J. Miles, a black man with a criminal record and a history of mental illness, was identified and charged in that case.

So far, there is no indication that Lieutenant Gliniewicz was intentionally targeted, though investigators are not ruling out that possibility, according to Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Cmdr. George Filenko, the lead investigator on the case. Gliniewicz was pursuing three men – two white, one black – at the time of his death. No clear suspects have yet been identified in the Gliniewicz shooting.  

While the recent deaths of Gliniewicz and Deputy Goforth have brought new attention to the risks members of law enforcement face on the job, police officer deaths appear to be on the decline overall.

Police shooting deaths in the US are down 13 percent this year, compared with the same January-to-September period last year. There were 30 last year and 26 this year. The Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which records such data, cautions making a correlation between the recent rash of officer deaths and overall trends in law-enforcement fatalities. Steve Groeninger, a spokesman for the group, told The Associated Press that the only clear thing we can point to is that "there are people out there who intend to harm police officers for whatever reason."

Following Goforth's death, President Obama said in a statement on Monday that “targeting police officers is completely unacceptable – an affront to civilized society.” Goforth and Gliniewicz's deaths will likely continue a dialogue about the intersection of race, politics and law enforcement well into election season.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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