The South continues to be the most deadly region for law enforcement in the U.S., according to the latest statistics from the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Program. As of December 2, when LEOKA released its report, 19 officers had been feloniously killed with firearms in the South in 2019 — and just a few days later, three more were fatally shot in the line of duty within less than 48 hours.
On December 6, Huntsville, Alabama, Police Officer Billy Fred Clardy III was shot and killed during a drug investigation. Making his loss even more poignant, the 48-year-old decorated Army veteran was the son of another Huntsville police officer, Billy Clardy Jr., who was killed in an on-duty crash in 1978. Tragically, the younger Clardy was also the sixth Alabama law enforcement officer to be fatally shot in the line of duty in 2019.
“It has been an exceptionally tough year for our law enforcement community, and this will be felt across the state,” Governor Kay Ivey said.
The next afternoon, Houston Police Sergeant Christopher Brewster was fatally shot while responding to a domestic violence call. Then, that evening, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Police Officer Stephen Carr was ambushed and shot dead while sitting in his patrol car in the department parking lot.
This latest string of tragedies brought the South’s total number of officers killed by gunfire to 22 — more than in the remaining areas of the country combined. The West and Midwest each saw nine officers killed by felony gunfire, while Puerto Rico had two and the Northeast none.
Unfortunately, past years have followed a similar pattern. In 2018, 26 of the 55 officers feloniously killed were in the South, while in 2017 it was 24 of 46. Experts theorize that the greater prevalence of gun ownership in the region may be one of the reasons for the higher level of violence against law enforcement, but guns certainly aren’t the only threat facing Southern officers. Sadly, the South also had 19 accidental lineof- duty deaths last year as of December 2 — mainly vehicle-related — more than the rest of the nation combined.
While those statistics paint a grim picture, the overall numbers of officers killed in the U.S. as of December 9 were down slightly from the same time period the previous year, for both felonious and accidental deaths. Yet by the next day, another police officer, Detective Joseph Seals, had already been slain in Jersey City, showing no time or place can be considered completely safe for those tasked with risking their lives to protect others.