When police become targets: Obama calls ambushes 'affront to civil society'

Deputy Darren Goforth was gunned down from behind while filling his patrol car with gas in what some authorities say was a deliberate targeting of a police officer. 

Harris County Sheriff's Office/Reuters
A statuette of a police officer holding the hand of a boy is seen near other mementos and messages left at the scene of a policeman's shooting in Houston, Texas, on Sunday. A Houston man with an extensive criminal history has been charged with capital murder of Dep. Darren Goforth on Friday evening at a Houston gas station.

Harris County Sheriff's Dep. Darren Goforth may have been targeted because he was in uniform, authorities say.

On Monday, in a court hearing for Shannon J. Miles, who is charged with capital murder, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said Deputy Goforth – a veteran law enforcement officer – was ambushed and shot 15 times Friday.

Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said Saturday that the attack was "clearly unprovoked," that authorities believe the deputy was targeted because he was in uniform and there is no evidence Goforth knew Mr. Miles.

President Obama said in a statement on Monday, “targeting police officers is completely unacceptable – an affront to civilized society.”

Authorities said Monday that Miles has a history of mental illness and once lived in a homeless shelter.

Miles has a criminal history that dates back to 2005 and includes an arrest in Austin in 2012 that led to Miles being sent to a state mental hospital for several months.

The killing of Goforth evoked strong emotions in the area's law enforcement community, with Mr. Hickman linking it to escalating tension over the treatment of African-Americans by police. Goforth was white and Miles is black.

"We've heard Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. Well, cops' lives matter, too," Hickman said Saturday.

During the past year, there have been heightened tensions around the United States between law enforcement and civilians. Last January, following a spate of deadly ambushes on police officers, the National Fraternal Order of Police called to list targeting police as a hate crime. 

In 2014, ambushes were the leading circumstance of officer fatalities in firearms related deaths, according to National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. “About 1 in 5 non-accidental officer deaths since 2004 were ambush-related, and 2014 saw a sharp uptick in the number of ambush deaths, according to an annual report released in December,” The Christian Science Monitor reported.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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