This week, a massive, intense manhunt was underway for more than 30 continuous hours in the Seattle/Tacoma area of Washington state.
This isn't the first time this year that multiple officers from an agency have been killed in a single incident. While I certainly hope it's the last time, my gut feeling is it probably isn't. These four Lakewood officers were at a coffee shop, preparing to begin their Sunday tour of duty - unaware of their impending fates.
They never made it to their tour of duty. Instead, they were gunned down without warning by a gunman posing as a customer. Before the officers died in a hail of bullets, it's believed that before dying, one officer shot the fleeing assassin.
This isn't the first time Washington police officers have been deliberately targeted for death. On Halloween, a Seattle officer was ambushed and murdered in his patrol car. The suspect was eventually hunted down, shot and wounded by police, and will stand trial for murder of a police officer.
And on November 19th, a Las Vegas police officer, returning home from his tour of duty, was murdered by robbers - in his own garage. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page Website, so far in 2009 a total of 111 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty. This deadly total includes multi-fatal deaths in Oakland, Calif. (four), Pittsburgh, Pa. (three), and from the DEA (four) - an unprecedented number of multi-fatal LEO incidents.
If I didn't know better I'd say it's starting to look like "open season" on law enforcement. This isn't the first time American police have been deliberately targeted for assassination and ambush. During the late 1960s and 1970s, numerous LEOs were murdered by militants and radicals - often in the name of "revolution."
What's different about the current epidemic attack on police is the perpetrators are individuals with grudges against God knows what or who. Not coincidentally, America today is also experiencing a dramatic spike in multiple shootings and murders. Again, the perpetrators are taking their "grudges" against innocent persons.
The Washington manhunt is one of the most intense sustained in recent memory. Police must necessarily check out each and every tip, alleged sighting and lead. Earlier this week, Seattle Police were involved in an eleven-hour standoff at the suspect's house. After hours of no response from the house, chemical agents and distraction devices were deployed. After a thorough, methodical search by SWAT, the house was found to be empty. Although evidence indicated the assassin had been wounded.
Meanwhile, the massive manhunt continued, with police checking out each and every tip and lead. Every involved officer realized he or she might ultimately be the next one to confront the face of evil.
Those who have ever been involved in long, intense cop-killer manhunts know how physically and mentally draining they truly are. The entire Seattle/Tacoma region was living in collective fear as the manhunt for the murderer continued. But for every law enforcement officer - from patrol to detective to SWAT - searching for and locating a cop killer is a career high point.
And that's exactly what happened on a South Seattle street early Tuesday morning when a lone Seattle police officer came across a stolen auto believed to have been used by the suspect. The officer noted "movement" behind him, and recognized he was face-to-face with the suspect believed to have murdered the four officers.
Commands to halt went unheeded, and the suspect attempted to escape. The officer, undoubtedly fearing for his life, responded to the threat by shooting and killing the suspect. The most intense manhunt in Washington state history was now over. This time, the "good guy" won, and the "bad guy" lost - as it should be.
As the investigation into the tragic Lakewood Police execution murders continues, details are beginning to emerge. One of the victim officers managed to shoot/wound the suspect before succumbing to his own wounds. At the time of the final confrontation, the suspect was in possession of at least one victim officer's firearm. The suspect received outside help in avoiding capture for so many hours.
In the end, the most massive manhunt in Washington history, involving hundreds of LEOs, proved effective. But it was good, old-fashioned, heads-up police work by a courageous Seattle patrol officer that ended the assassin's reign of terror.
Today, there is a collective sigh of relief throughout Washington, and all of law enforcement. And while we can only hope there will never be a "next time," the tragic events of the past week remind us to remain ever alert and prepared - at all times.