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Thread: Cop Shootings Increase
05-03-07, 08:57 AM #1
Cop Shootings Increase
Cop Shootings Increase
Over the past two-and-a-half years, firearms assaults have been increasing against police officers in many of the nation's major cities. In 2006, for example, four St. Louis police officers were shot in the line of duty. None were killed, but surprisingly, two of the shootings remain unsolved. Meanwhile, on both April 3 and April 20, St. Louis police engaged in deadly firefights with gunmen in the heart of downtown.
The shootings are part of a nationwide pattern of growing armed attacks against police, usually with many shots per incident fired, in which shootouts occur more and more unexpectedly. Police, criminologists, and teens on the street in inner city neighborhoods all agree it's happening, but none know why there has been an upsurge in armed attacks against police that started, roughly, at the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005.
"Whether it's to get their quote-unquote street cred up or to demonstrate their manliness to some degree, we don't really know," said University of Missouri-St. Louis criminology professor David Klinger.
"All we know is that it is happening."
St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa agreed, and said the relative calm experienced in the late 1990's and the early three years of this century seems to be over. "I anticipate having at least a half-dozen officers shot during a year," said Mokwa. "Having officers shot at is so common that I'm ashamed to say I don't even keep familiar with those statistics."
On the depressed and violent streets squeezed between North Florissant Road and Interstate 70, teenagers who have had frequent encounters with police say relations between their community and the police have always been bad. But now, for some reason, some people are bolder about shooting at officers.
"They're going to roll up in here and hassle everybody on the street for nothin, even the young children," said one young man in a blue bandana who would only give his name as Mario. "They might club you or Taser you or shoot you. If they're going to fire at you, you might as well fire at them before they fire at you."
What happened in the daylight on a busy downtown street right before a Cardinals home game illustrates all of those points---the growing willingness to shoot at police, the sudden, explosive nature of such encounters, and the shootings often taking place far away from violent drug-riddled neighborhoods.
In was a chilly Tuesday, April 3rd. The Cardinals were playing their second game of the season, against the Mets, and a steady stream of people flowed across downtown streets and sidewalks. Officer Todd Miller, 28, and Officer Dan Rayhawk, 26, were in their police cruiser, looking for whoever was responsible for a series of car break-ins.
They saw 29 year old Damien Connors standing on Fourth Street preparing to turn into the new pedestrian plaza built along Locust next to the Federal Reserve Bank downtown. Thinking he fit the description of whoever was breaking into automobiles, they pulled up and asked to speak to them. Connors, a petty criminal from Swansea, Illinois with several arrests on minor charges in his record, turned away and began walking.
Both officers followed him on foot down the Federal Reserve pedestrian plaza, asking him to stop. Rayhawk was about three feet away from the suspect when Connors suddenly turned, pulled a .44 caliber revolver from his waistband, and fired at Rayhawk from point-blank range. The bullet missed.
"Several people have asked me what I was thinking, and I wasn't really," said Rayhawk, who has only been on the police force a little over a year. "I drew my weapon and as he began to fire at me I began to fire at him. We separated ourselves, and we again exchanged shots."
At this point, Connors turned away and began walking rapidly west, toward Broadway. He walked into the middle of the street, and then suddenly, doubled back, walking right at Officer Miller. As he fired the .44 repeatedly, Miller retreated back onto the pedestrian plaza.
"When he came back around the corner, he was just coming at me shooting, just walking casually as if this was nothing new,"said Miller, a classmate of Rayhawk's at the St. Louis Police Academy. "All I remember is that I dumped the spent magazine and re-inserted one in my weapon charged up and reengaged him."
Both Miller and Rayhawk pumped several rounds into Connors' torso. Connors kept walking, and firing, so both officers thought he must be wearing body armor.
"I continued to fire into his chest and he wasn't dropping," said Miller. "I finally shot him in his head."
Connors was not wearing body armor. According to police, he was high on P.C.P., an animal tranquilizer-based drug that gives the user a feeling of euphoria and invulnerability. The autopsy showed that Connors kept advancing despite five shots to the chest, including one that pierced his left lung, his heart, and his liver.
Despite the P.C.P., both officers suspect there was something else at work when Connors opened fire on them in daylight hours on a downtown street. "It's the lack of respect for police these days," reflected Rayhawk. "They let kids know as they're growing up, 'hey, it's okay to shoot, the police are your enemy.' "
I asked several young men standing on a corner just west of Interstate 70 how they would react if a friend of theirs said he had shot at a police officer. All of them laughed, and then Mario said "We'd want to know did he hit him? Did he kill the m**********r?"
Nearby, the Reverend Otis Woodard, who has worked these streets as a pastor, counselor, and surrogate father for 35 years, shook his head as he sat on a bench in his self-named "Peace Park," a quarter-block of abandoned land he has reclaimed with flowers, grass, benches, and a large sign forbidding gang activity or shooting.
"These kids, they look at the police like the cops are an occupying army," Woodard said. He is 76 years old. "I'm old enough to have friends who are police officers, but these kids know these police have no ties at all to this community. These children, 12, 13, 14 years old, they see violence on the streets and in their lives and on television and they're almost immune to it. They can see a body lying on the street, and it will interest them for, maybe, a moment or two."
Mario agreed with the man he calls "Mister Otis". Mario told me "People are going to shoot at the police every day if they want to, they will; shoot at the police just to get them away from where they are."
While much talk like this is thug bravado, UMSL criminologist David Klinger said he is deeply worried. "If you think about it as a broader trend of anti-establishment and anti-police feeling, you think about the so-called "stop snitching" movement where people aren't supposed to talk to the police even to help solve crimes, that means you're identifying with the criminals," Klinger said. "In my mind, it's not much of a stretch to say if I'm on the bad guy's side, why not act like the bad guys?"
Add the pre-existing toxicity of relations between young African-American males to a ready supply of illegal firearms, and you have a problem. Otis Woodard merely laughed when I asked about the availability of guns in his neighborhood. "You give me a hundred dollars, you'll have a handgun in five minutes," he said. "If you have two hundred or three hundred dollars, you can get some serious firepower."
Local police departments have been lobbying for years to get be allowed to share information on guns that might be used in several crimes. Amazingly, that sort of information sharing is against federal law right now, part of a series of "pro-gun" laws passed in 2003 and 2004 at the urging of the National Rifle Association.
The N.R.A's Ashley Varner was unapologetic. "What these big cities and their mayors want to do is use that trace data as part of a fishing expedition," she said. "They want to go after licensed gun dealers and owners."
Take, for example, the .44 caliber revolver used by Damien Connors to shoot at police April 3rd. The gun was made by Taurus Firearms in Brazil, and then imported through Miami. In November, 1994, it was sold by a licensed firearms dealer to a man in Indiana. And that's all the information there is. The gun was never reported sold, never reported stolen. The mystery still remains about how the weapon migrated into Damien Connors hands 13 years after it was initially sold.
St. Louis police Chief Jow Mokwa is angry about the availability of weapons on street corners. But he is even angrier about what has happened in the past 36 months, in St. Louis and across the country.
Said Mokwa, The hardcore criminals have guns. The really dangerous issue is that they're no longer afraid to use them."
link"When I'm driving along and I see a sign that says, CAUTION: SMALL CHILDREN AHEAD,
I slow down, and then it occurs to me, I'm not afraid of small children"!
05-03-07, 05:15 PM #2
The comments from these idiots without brains is sickening. I hope and pray the increase stops. Soon.
Be safe out there. May God bless you all.http://www.odmp.org/officer/16551-de...l-eron-shannon
Police Officers put themselves at risk for strangers every day. Some do not make it home to their families. Next time you think of saying something negative about the police, remember...YOU are one of the strangers.
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