A police officer responding to a domestic dispute in New Florence, Pa., was fatally shot Saturday.
St. Clair Township Officer Lloyd Reed, who had been an officer for more than 20 years, was pronounced dead at a hospital, making him the 116th US police officer killed in the line of duty this year. As communities publicly mourn the loss of their public servants, some have called for renewed protections, citing increased threats to officers in uniform following a spate of anti-police demonstrations across the country. However, police fatality data show that officer deaths are actually on the decline.
Police believe that Officer Reed was shot by Ray Shetler Jr., who was charged with homicide Sunday, along with two other counts related to the domestic situation.
Mr. Shelter was captured at about 3:15 a.m. on Sunday while walking near a power plant outside New Florence, about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh.
About 50 people gathered Sunday night at a park in the borough to honor Officer Reed, reported the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Several small candles arranged in the shape of a cross flickered on the ground near a parked police vehicle.
“This is another horrible tragedy that brings to light how difficult a police officer's job can be on a daily basis,” District Attorney John Peck told the Tribune. “A police officer responding to a domestic call is typical, and too many of these tragedies happen in this manner.”
It has been a troubling year for law enforcement, as The Christian Science Monitor has reported. The profession has faced both higher scrutiny over officers' use of lethal force, as well as a series of high-profile fatal ambush attacks against police, including killings in Houston and New York.
This has left police departments across the nation feeling more vulnerable to attacks against their officers, with some calling for crimes against law enforcement to be prosecuted as hate crimes.
The National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), an advocacy organization for police officers, has been characterizing recent lethal attacks on police as part of a broader national crisis, calling for hate crime protection for police officers.
"In the last few years, ambush attacks aimed to kill or injure law enforcement officers have risen dramatically," said FOP National President Chuck Canterbury, according to the New York Daily News. "All of these officers died because of the uniforms they were wearing."
But according to a website that keeps track of police officer deaths, Officer Down Memorial Page, line of duty deaths have actually declined in the last decade. Over the past 10 years, an average of 157 officers have been killed on the job. With one month left in the year, 2015 is on track to be the second least deadly year for police officers for decades.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.