Officer James Capoot. Photo: Vallejo (Calif.) PD
The friends, family, and colleagues of Vallejo (Calif.) Police Officer James Capoot heard the dreaded words "end of watch," following the officer's foot pursuit of a bank robbery suspect on Nov. 17.
Northern California's Bay Area first heard about this tragedy as breaking news. Initially, details were sketchy. Police pursued the suspect's vehicle, which crashed. What followed was a foot pursuit, resulting on the officer being shot, a suspect apprehended, and an extensive door-to-door manhunt for a second suspect.
Hours later, Vallejo Police broke the tragic news of Officer Capoot's death during a news conference. Also, there was no second suspect.
Media outlets broadcast Officer Capoot's flag-draped casket being placed into a hearse, and escorted by a phalanx of police vehicles.
The news stunned and saddened the Bay Area, immediately becoming the top story and interrupting the media's heavy, ongoing Occupy movement coverage.
This has been a violent year for police officers. As of Nov. 22, 1557 officers have died in the line of duty, a 13% increase over the 139 duty deaths in 2010, according to figures from the National Law Enforcement Officers' Memorial Fund (NLEOMF).
The 57 firearm-related LODDs mark a 21% increase over the 47 in 2010. The 42 other LODDs are a 75% increase over the 24 in 2010. The only declining category is vehicle-related deaths. The 58 in 2011 represent a 15% decrease from the 68 in 2010.
In the days following Officer Capoot's death, we learned more about the man. He was a 19-year veteran of Vallejo PD. He served two years with the California Highway Patrol. He spent four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. The 45-year-old husband with three daughters was the son of a 20-year Little Rock (Ark.) Police officer. Officer Capoot was a dedicated, respected, and outstanding police officer, as well as a warmly generous human being.
Officer Capoot received numerous Vallejo Police commendations, including two medals of courage and two lifesaving medals. He was a motorcycle officer, multi-discipline police instructor, and SWAT member.
During all this, Jim Capoot supervised the Vallejo Junior Safety Program, helping train more than 500 Vallejo children from 14 schools. His commitment to family, law enforcement and community is truly amazing. He and his wife took in two orphaned children after their parents were killed in a motorcycle accident. They now live with grandparents.
To support his daughters, Jim became coach of the Vallejo High girls basketball team. He won a sectional title championship, and helped shape the lives of his players. In the wake of Officer Capoot's slaying, public support and sympathy have been overwhelming.
Officer Capoot's family thanked the public for its support, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. In a true class-act gesture, the family added, "Please show your respect by saying 'thank you' to a police officer today."
To learn more about Jim Capoot's remarkable life and career, visit the Vallejo Police Officers Association web site. The current issue of the newsletter features Officer Capoot, as does the "Officer Spotlight" article from Issue 2 of 2010.
That newsletter also includes photos of the 41 Vallejo officers who have left the department since the city declared bankruptcy in May 2008.
The Vallejo force is down to 90 officers from the 158 sworn officers it employed prior to the bankruptcy. That's only 0.97 officers per 1,000 population. Compare that with the California average of 2.52 officers per 1,000. Vallejo is a city of 116,000 residents that in 2010 recorded 17 homicides, 458 robberies, and 1,177 vehicle thefts.
Vallejo's bankruptcy also resulted in the elimination of the agency's SWAT and K-9 teams. In April, Vallejo joined with Benicia and Suisun City to form the Southern Solano County Regional SWAT team.
The day Officer Capoot was killed, there were only six solo Vallejo officers on patrol. Lack of back-up doesn't appear to be a factor in Officer Capoot's shooting, because units were only seconds away.
More details about this tragedy have come to light. Officers pursued the bank robber's SUV almost four miles into a residential neighborhood, where Officer Capoot forced the SUV to stop. During the ensuing foot pursuit, Officer Capoot—he was wearing his body armor—was shot by the suspect.
Back-up officers were only seconds behind, locating, TASERing, and apprehending the suspect in a nearby yard. It was subsequently learned that the 37-year-old suspect is a convicted felon with financial difficulties.
Jim Capoot is the fourth Vallejo Police officer to die in the line of duty.