So far, 2009 has been a bad year for multiple officer police shootings. The latest tragic police shootout occurred the morning of July 16 in Jersey City, N.J. What began as a stakeout for two armed robbers ended in gunfire-a deadly shootout that left one police officer dead, four others wounded, and both suspects dead.
Then, only days later, seven Jersey City PD officers received minor injuries when teenage suspects rammed four police cruisers during a chase. Then on the 21, Jersey City PD responded to a call of a female threatening with a knife. During the ensuing confrontation, two officers had been slashed and the female suspect lay dead, shot by police - the same day one of the officers in the July 16 gunbattle died from his wounds.
All this in only a six-day span.
Officer Marc DiNardo, 37, a 10-year Jersey City PD veteran assigned to ESU (SWAT), died only two days before his birthday, and leaves behind his wife and three young children.
The tragedy unfolded when the robbery suspects emerged from their apartment, apparently spotted an undercover vehicle, and one of them pulled out a shotgun from under the monk's robe he was wearing and opened fire. He blew out the undercover vehicle's windows, wounding one officer who returned fire.
Both suspects ran back into their apartment, as police units raced to the scene from throughout Jersey City. JCPD ESU (SWAT) was called out, and 90 minutes later decided forced entry was their best tactical option.
When the door was forced open with a ram, Officer DiNardo was first in, and immediately hit by a shotgun blast to the face from five feet away. The suspect continued firing a total of seven rounds, wounding three more officers. ESU fired 50 rounds of return fire as they evacuated their fallen comrades.
Both suspects were DOA, the shotgunner with 19 bullets in him and holes from 11 more that passed through him.
The most critically wounded officers, DiNardo and Camacho, were rushed to a trauma center. Officer Camacho was eventually upgraded to "serious but guarded." However, Officer DiNardo had to be revived several times and fought for his life for five days before succumbing to his wounds.
A true hero to the end, Officer DiNardo's organs were donated to needy recipients. He became Jersey City PD's 38th officer killed in the line of duty since 1880. The most recent on-duty deaths were two Jersey City PD ESU officers whose truck plunged off a bridge into the Hackensack River because they were unaware the bridge was raised.
We've all had tough weeks on the job, some rougher than others. So we can most definitely identify with the pain that Jersey City PD now feels as they try and recover from this latest tragic death.
If what happened in Jersey City sounds familiar, it should. It was only a few months ago that four Oakland, Calif., police officers were slain by a gunman. Two of those slain were traffic officers and the other two were SWAT.
Then, only a few weeks later, three Pittsburgh, Pa., officers were killed by a gunman. Although they were patrol, not SWAT, it was SWAT that engaged the gunman in the ensuing gunbattle before he eventually surrendered.
The Oakland and Jersey City shootings bear a number of remarkable similarities. Suspects in both incidents shot police officers, then hid inside apartments. SWAT and ESU responded and took control of both situations. Both Oakland SWAT and Jersey City ESU picked forced entry through an apartment door as their tactic of choice.
Suspects in both entries immediately opened fire as SWAT/ESU entered through the apartment doors. Both teams' point men were struck by gunfire and died of their wounds.
In both shootings, the suspects were killed by return SWAT/ESU gunfire.
Make no mistake about it, these and all LE officer shootings are tragic, and there are hard lessons to be learned from each. Oakland, Pittsburgh, Jersey City-these shootings are still too fresh to know what tactical lessons we'll learn from all the after-action debriefs in the upcoming months.
One thing is clear though: Bad guys are getting more ruthless and violent, use more powerful weapons, and are not hesitating to shoot and kill police, even in large numbers, including SWAT.
However, the most important lesson of all is universal to all in law enforcement-one that we all strive to emulate when it's our turn to be tested.
This most valuable lesson is the undying bravery of the officers in our proud profession. When it comes down to it, these brave officers show courage under fire and the will to not only survive, but to prevail.