Photo: Mark W. Clark.
When Lamar D. Moore strode into the Detroit Police Department's 6th Precinct this January, he didn't look demonstrably different from any other lobby patron. It wasn't until Moore raised the shotgun he'd concealed along the left side of his body that all hell broke loose.
Aiming the shotgun at the nearest target, Moore fired at an officer seated just beyond the doors, center-punching the officer's bulletproof vest.
Two more sergeants immediately engaged Moore from an adjacent hallway with their sidearms, forcing the assailant to back-pedal to the middle of the station lobby where he swung the shotgun in their direction and fired.
With only a desk counter separating themselves from Moore, Commander Brian Davis and a fourth sergeant engaged Moore with their sidearms. Lunging over the counter, Moore closed the distance between himself and the officers to mere inches.
The station desk area quickly became a shooting gallery with handgun and shotgun rounds being exchanged at point-blank range.
With two fingers shot off and disarmed, Davis twisted around a smaller desk in a desperate bid to put distance between himself and Moore. Moore pursued him. With little cover and out of sheer desperation, Davis grabbed a trashcan and heaved it at Moore.
At that moment, the officers' rounds finally took effect and Moore collapsed. He was later pronounced dead while being transported to an area hospital.
Satan made me do it. It was an accident. It was self-defense. Because it was easy. Such rationalizations provided by many cop killers don't provide much insight into their motives, though most assaults on cops are borne of desperate bids to evade justice.
But what of those who go so far as to engage and assault cops on their home turf? What makes these time bombs tick?
Revenge, for one.
Certainly, it appears to have factored into the shooting deaths of three law enforcement officers during an attack inside the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia.
Having been branded a snitch by his associates after being interviewed in connection with a triple murder, the suspect was apparently intent on clearing his bad name when he rode an elevator to the third floor of the D.C. Metro PD headquarters.
As the man entered the department's Cold Case Unit, Sgt. Hank Daly looked up from his desk. The suspect shot and killed Daly before turning the gun on [FBI] Special Agents Michael John Miller and Martha Dixon Martinez. Before dying, Martinez was able to return fire and wound her assailant. The suspect retrieved Martinez' firearm, which he then used to kill himself.
Revenge also appears to have been the motive for a series of attacks last year on the Hemet (Calif.) Police Department. Bombs were placed on department vehicles, a firearm was rigged to fire at a passing patrol unit, and a rocket was launched at one of its buildings. Members of a local biker club whose grievances were with the department's gang suppression unit were eventually taken into custody.
But there are other reasons for such attacks.
Youthful offenders such as Valentino Mitchell Arenas, the teen who shot and killed California Highway Patrol Officer Thomas Steiner outside a Pomona, Calif., courthouse in 2004, often acknowledge their crimes as desperate bids to ingratiate themselves with a gang. Long-held resentments of authority figures have also proven to be flashpoints for violence against police, for militant minority groups, anarchists, right-wing militias, and other underground elements.
More problematic are the lone wolf shooters who strike without warning. Absent some previously documented manifesto, rant, suicide note, or threat, the motives of many are left to be inferred in the aftermath of their deaths, which may be part of their design.
According to David Klinger, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, police officers have to be aware that the same suicidal individuals who phone in phony calls and the classic "suicide-by-cop" situations may show up at police departments as well. Interdicting such threats is difficult, but police officers have to stand their ground. And this includes those suspects whose primary agenda is to assassinate cops.
Earmarking this latter demographic is a greater proclivity toward preparation. Determined to maximize their opportunities for kills, they may carry multiple firearms and extra ammunition, and wear ballistic protection.
Last August, 29-year-old Patrick Gray Sharp towed a trailer loaded with explosives into the parking lot of the McKinney, Texas, police station before setting his Ford F150 pickup on fire and firing more than 100 rounds at police headquarters from a field across the street. Amazingly, the trailer didn't ignite and nobody was killed, except for Sharp who eventually put a bullet in his own head.
In March, John W. Futrell allegedly entered the criminal investigative division of the Grant Parish (La.) Sheriff's Office armed with a rifle, handgun, and knife, as well as extra magazines of ammunition for each firearm. Authorities say Futrell opened fire, wounding Dep. Barkley Roberts in the chest before being wounded himself by return fire from sheriff's deputies.