Escalating Brutality: Cop Slayings on the Rise

•In one of the worst assaults, South Carolina Constable Robert Lee Bailey was found May 19 after being fatally shot and buried in a shallow grave. Five days earlier, he had disappeared while on patrol. Investigators found Bailey's abandoned police cruiser burning in Lincolnville, S.C., about 5 miles from his last call, a traffic stop.

The escalating brutality has driven many police agencies, including Miami and the Orange County, Fla., sheriff's department, to provide more powerful guns to patrol officers, including military-style assault weapons. Others are moving toward updated communications systems to offer more information about potential suspects. The nation's largest association of police chiefs is urging Congress to enact a new ban on assault weapons such as some types of AK-47s.

Jack Levin, director of Northeastern University's Center on Violence and Conflict, says the police killings are a disturbing outgrowth of rising violence across the nation. In September, the FBI reported that violent crime had increased in 2006 for the second consecutive year after more than a decade of decline.

"With crime re-emerging, we are asking police to become more aggressive," Levin says. "They are confronting gang members and an increasing number of offenders released from prisons."

Many suspects, he says, have "little regard for the consequences of their actions. … They will shoot to kill."

A tragedy unfolds in Odessa

More than a month after the Odessa police slayings, the house at 2912 Ventura Ave. still bears the scars of a vicious assault and a community's grief. The chain-link fence that once ringed Larry White's backyard is in a crumpled heap.

On a recent afternoon, curious local residents were still driving by White's home, a sign of lingering questions surrounding what neighbor Garry Givens, 51, describes as Odessa's "dog-day afternoon."

Caver gives the following account of the events of Sept. 8, based on interviews with witnesses and evidence collected from the scene:

Before the shooting started, Marquez and Jones responded to the disturbance call at White's house about 6:30 p.m.

White's wife, Judith, met the officers outside and told them her husband had struck her and had been drinking. According to local court records, Judith White had filed abuse complaints against her husband as early as 1996.

In the Sept. 8 incident, she told officers her husband had a knife and other firearms stored in a vehicle inside the closed garage. Caver says about six firearms, a mix of hunting rifles and handguns, were found later in the house.

After knocks at the front door went unanswered, Marquez and Jones went to the backyard. Investigators believe White, peering through the cracked opening of the back door, opened fire at close range with a 12-gauge shotgun.

Caver believes Marquez fell first, hit with a blast in the left side of his neck. Jones was shot in the head. The first distress call came shortly after 6:30, when Marquez somehow gathered himself and spoke into a body microphone to summon help.

As backup officers arrived, they found Marquez, despite his grave wounds, standing near the front of the house covered in blood, his gun drawn. As gunfire again rang out, he lurched back toward the yard before he slumped near a patrol car.

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