The surge in shootings of police across the U.S. is alarming. 2010 saw a spike in LEO deaths — 162 up from 128 in 2009. And so far 2011 is continuing where 2010 left off, with 14 reported LEO deaths, including several multiple officer shootings.

In a recent 24-hour period, 11 LEOs were shot in the U.S. At least three of the shootings involved multiple officers as victims. On Jan. 23, Lamar Deshea Moore walked into the Detroit PD's Northwestern District station and opened fire with a shotgun, wounding four officers, before being killed by return fire.

The most alarming of the recent police shootings occurred in Florida, where four police officers were shot and killed in a four-day span. All involving suspect searches by experienced, trained, equipped LEOs.

On Jan. 20, Miami-Dade Police Career Criminal detectives went to a home looking for a wanted homicide suspect. They were admitted into the home, when the wanted suspect suddenly emerged from another room and opened fire. Two detectives were shot and killed and another was injured, before the suspect was killed by a fourth detective.

On Jan. 24, a multi-agency Fugitive Task Force in St. Petersburg went to a home looking for a wanted suspect with a long criminal history. The official St. Petersburg PD press release offers a chilling, revealing timeline of the tragic events that occurred.

  • 6:58 a.m. — Three officers arrive at the home to interview a relative of the suspect.
  • Shortly after 7 a.m. — Officers are told the suspect is hiding in the attic.
  • 7:07 a.m. — Officers request backup. Several officers respond, including a K-9 officer getting off duty.
  • 7:11 a.m. — SPPD Communications Center is advised the suspect was hiding in the attic.
  • 7:29 a.m. — The K-9 officer and a U.S. Deputy Marshal position near the attic entrance. Suspect refuses to surrender and gunfire erupted.
  • K-9 officer is struck and fell wounded into the attic. The U.S. Marshal is struck and tumbles to the first floor.
  • Several officers on scene, some with ballistic shields, enter the home to rescue the fallen officer and U.S. Marshal. The suspect, still hidden in the attic, fires rounds through the ceiling.
  • A sergeant (wearing body armor) was struck by at least one bullet fired through the ceiling.
  • The rescue team heroically extracts the wounded sergeant and U.S. Marshal under raining gunfire. They're unable to remove the K-9 officer from the attic. His condition is unknown.
  • SPPD TAC Team (SWAT) responds and sets up a perimeter.  Hostage Negotiators hold intermittent conversations with the suspect, who refuses to surrender.
  • Between 9-9:30 a.m. — TAC Team enters the home to rescue the downed K-9 officer. Gunfire is exchanged with the suspect. TAC extracts the K-9 officer.
  • A few hours later suspect texts a relative indicating he'd been wounded. 
  • Both SPPD officers (sergeant and K-9) were pronounced dead at the hospital.
  • Mid afternoon, TAC Team re-enters the home and finds the suspect dead in the attic.

Additional details have also emerged about the St. Petersburg tragedy:

  • Some officers in the first rescue team were also equipped with ballistic helmets and AR-15s.
  • TAC employed cover fire and tear gas during the rescue of the downed K-9 officer.
  • A trauma surgeon was on scene, in the ambulance transporting the K-9 officer
  • 1:30 p.m. Using an ARV/ram and front-end loader, police begin tearing down walls of the home, to gain access to the suspect who's still inside the attic.
  • 10 p.m. — After hours of demolition, the home material is hauled away in dump trucks to be examined for evidence.

Both tragedies in Miami and St. Petersburg will be very thoroughly investigated and micro-analyzed. To determine what, how and why these tragedies happened. In time, there will be detailed debriefs that will answer these questions, and provide valuable lessons to prevent this from ever happening again.

Sobering lessons learned that apply to all of LE — regardless of assignment — whether patrol, setective or SWAT. Lessons we all need to learn and apply right now.

Author

Robert O'Brien
Robert O'Brien

SWAT Sergeant (Ret.)

A member of the TREXPO Advisory Board, Sgt. Robert "Bob" O'Brien Cleveland SWAT Ret. is the founder of the R.J. O'Brien Group Ltd., a law enforcement training and consulting service that advises and trains a number of local, state, and federal SWAT teams.

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A member of the TREXPO Advisory Board, Sgt. Robert "Bob" O'Brien Cleveland SWAT Ret. is the founder of the R.J. O'Brien Group Ltd., a law enforcement training and consulting service that advises and trains a number of local, state, and federal SWAT teams.

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