Officer Down: 2007 Deadly Year for Police

2007 has been the worst year in decades for police officer fatalities.


Nov. 26, 2007 — -- The year 2007 is turning out to be an especially deadly year for police.

To date, 170 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty -- that's nearly a third more than at the same point last year. It's also 17 percent higher than in all of 2006, and there is more than a month remaining in the year.

In fact, this year is on pace to be the worst year for police in decades. And many of the deaths involve cold-blooded murder.

Click here to visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

On May 11 in Franconia, N.H., Officer Bruce McKay was in hot pursuit of a suspect fleeing a routine traffic stop. With his squad car camera capturing the drama, McKay cornered the suspect and maced him.

But then the unexpected happens. The suspect opened fire, fatally wounding McKay, before running him over with his car.

In another incident in March, New York Police Department volunteer police Nicholas Pekearo and Eugene Marshalik trail a suspect who has just gunned down a bartender. A surveillance camera tape rolls as the suspect turns, then chases down and executes in cold blood one officer, and then the other.

In 2007, police officers are dying at an alarming rate. There has been a 38 percent increase in the fatal shootings of police this year. There has also been a 15 percent jump in fatal car crashes as police pursue suspects or race to get to emergencies.

"Other than the year of 9/11, we haven't seen numbers this high since 1978, 30 years ago," said Craig Floyd, chairman and CEO for National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Police say the spike in fatalities mirrors the surge in crime many communities across the nation are facing -- much of it spurred by heavily armed gangs and repeat offenders.

What concerns police most is that they are encountering on routine patrols violent criminals who shoot to kill -- often without provocation.

"There's definitely a more brazen cold-blooded criminal on the streets of America today," Floyd said.

Sometimes the killers are just teenagers.

Last June in Floyd County, Ind., officers Frank Denzinger and Joel White went to a house to investigate a domestic dispute between a 15-year-old boy and his mother.

Then, without warning, shots rang out.

"Shots fired! Officers down, officers down!" White said on the radio dispatch call, obtained by ABC News.

"I'm down, I can't move, other officer is down. I'm not sure of his status," White said on the radio dispatch. "Subject's in the house with a rifle, use caution on approach, he shot us both, he shot us both from inside the house. He might be coming back to finish us off."

White didn't know it but Denzinger was lying nearby, unconscious and dying.

"My leg is, uh, destroyed. I can't move ... I'm losing consciousness, I'm not sure I'll be able to stay conscious to, uh, defend our position here," White said on the radio dispatch.

"Stay with us, we do have help on the way," said the dispatcher.

Denzinger died. The teenager later committed suicide.

White survived but recently had to have hip replacement surgery. Rehabilitation is difficult, but White wants to return to the force.

"I love the job and it means a lot to me," White said.

Despite the increasing risks to their lives, many officers say they remain committed to their jobs.

"It's my way to serve the community and that's why I got into it in the first place," White said.

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