Deadliest Days in Law Enforcement History
November 29, 2009
Four members of the Lakewood (WA) Police Department were shot and killed in an ambush attack as they sat in a coffee shop catching up on paperwork and planning for their upcoming shift. A lone gunman walked in and opened fire on the officers, who were in full uniform and wearing protective safety vests. Sergeant Mark Renninger and Officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards were all veteran law enforcement officers, with between 8 and 14 years of experience each. All four had been members of the Lakewood Police Department since it was founded in 2004 in the community outside Tacoma. The officers were the first members of the agency to be killed in the performance of duty. The suspect is a career criminal who had recently been released from jail and has an extensive criminal history in both Washington state and Arkansas.
March 21, 2009
Four members of the Oakland (CA) Police Department were shot and killed by the same gunman in two related incidents. Sergeant Mark Dunakin and Officer John Hege, both motorcycle officers, were shot following a traffic stop in East Oakland. Just over two hours later, SWAT team members, responding to an anonymous tip, tracked the gunman to an apartment building just a few blocks from the original shooting scene. As they entered a bedroom, the gunman opened fire through a closet with an assault weapon, striking Sergeant Ervin Romans and Sergeant Dan Sakai. Another member of the SWAT team, though injured himself by gunfire, managed to shoot and kill the suspect, a parolee who had been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and was also wanted on a no-bail warrant.
September 11, 2001
The deadliest day in U.S. law enforcement history, 72 officers were killed as a result of the terrorist attacks on America. Seventy-one of the officers died while responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, including 37 members of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department. That represented the single largest loss of law enforcement personnel by a single agency in U.S. history. Also killed at the World Trade Center were 23 members of the New York City Police Department; five members of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance; three members of the New York State Office of Court Administration; and one law enforcement member each of the New York City Fire Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Secret Service. In addition, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer died in the crash of United Flight 93 outside Shanksville, PA; it is believed he was among the passengers who attempted to retake the plane from the terrorists before it crashed.
February 27, 1997
Eleven correctional officers, all members of the Georgia Department of Corrections who worked at the Rutledge Correctional Institution, were traveling in a van returning from an emergency response team training class. As they were driving on I-75, a tractor trailer forced them off the road and directly in the path of two tractor trailers heading in the opposite direction. Both semis struck the van simultaneously. Seven of the correctional officers were seriously injured, and four were killed: Sergeant Tommie Lee Goggins, and Officers Carlton Cherry Sr., Eddie Davis and Wayne Griglen. The driver of the vehicle that caused the accident was charged with four counts of vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident.
April 19, 1995
Eight federal law enforcement officers were killed when domestic terrorists led by Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK. The terrorists detonated a massive truck bomb outside building, killing a total of 168 civilians and government workers, including numerous children in an on-site day care facility. Among the law enforcement who died were four members of the U.S. Secret Service: Assistant Special Agent in Charge Alan Whicher and Special Agents Cynthia Brown, Donald Leonard and Mickey Maroney. Also killed were Senior Special Agents Paul Ice and Claude Medearis of the U.S. Customs Service, Special Agents Paul Broxterman of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Special Agent Kenneth McCullough of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
August 27, 1994
Five Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agents died in a plane crash during a reconnaissance mission near Santa Lucia, Peru. This mission was being flown as part of Operation Snowcap, DEA's cocaine suppression program in Latin America. Killed were Special Agents Frank Fernandez Jr., Jay Seale, Meredith Thompson, Juan Vars and Frank Wallace.
February 28, 1993
Four Special Agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) were killed attempting to execute a search warrant for weapons at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX: Conway LeBleu, Todd McKeehan, Robert J. Williams and Steven Willis. The Branch Davidians were a religious cult that idolized their leader, David Koresh. A two-month standoff followed the initial raid and ended when the Branch Davidians conducted a mass murder-suicide, which resulted in the deaths of over 80 of its members.
August 24, 1990
Four law enforcement officers with the U.S. Coast Guard died in an airplane accident over the Caribbean. After the officers completed a counter-drug surveillance mission, the E-2C Hawkeye aircraft in which they were traveling experienced mechanical difficulties and crashed as the pilot was attempting to land at a base in Puerto Rico. Killed were Petty Officer Matthew Baker and Lieutenants Craig Lerner, Paul Perlt and Duane Stenback.
October 24, 1988
Five California law enforcement officers were killed in a helicopter crash during a joint drug interdiction mission. The helicopter snagged on a power line and exploded into a hillside in western Imperial County. Killed in the incident were Deputy Sheriffs Roy Chester and James McSweeney of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department; Investigator Michael Davis of the Riverside County Sheriff's Office; Sergeant Richard Romero of the Imperial County Sheriff's Office, and Deputy Sheriff Mark Tonkin of the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Three National Guardsmen also died in the crash.
July 5, 1984
Four members of the DeQueen (AR) Police Department were killed in a head-on automobile accident. The officers-Sergeant Roy Brewer, Patrolmen William Gilham and Herman Jones, Captain William Mills-were traveling to attend the funeral of Arkansas State Police Trooper Louis Bryant. Trooper Bryant had been shot and killed in the line of duty six days earlier.
December 16, 1982
FBI Special Agents Robert Conners, Charles Ellington Terry Herford and Michael Lynch all died in an aircraft accident while on approach to Cincinnati's Lunken Airport. The agents were escorting a bank fraud suspect and his lawyer to Cincinnati as part of an ongoing investigation.
December 31, 1972-January 7, 1973
Over the course of this eight-day period, five law enforcement officers in New Orleans were shot and killed by a sniper who was a member of the radical group, Black Panthers. New Orleans Police Cadet Alfred Harrell was shot and killed just before 11 pm on New Year's Eve, just five minutes before he was scheduled to end his shift working the gate at Central Lockup. Minutes later, the suspect shot Sergeant Edwin Hosli, who was searching a nearby warehouse after an alarm went off. Sergeant Hosli succumbed to his wounds on March 5, 1973. On January 7, 1973, the same suspect shot and killed Deputy Superintendent Louis Sirgo and Patrolmen Philip Coleman and Paul Persigo, after setting fires and shooting at civilians in a hotel. The suspect was shot and killed by police, who used a Marine helicopter to fly over the hotel he was holed up in and fire at him.
September 11-13, 1971
Seven Correctional Officers were killed during inmate riots at the Attica State Prison in upstate New York. On September 9, a group of inmates began the riot and took control of a large portion of the prison; in the process, they severely beat Correctional Officer William Quinn, who died two days later. Later that day, State Police retook most of the prison, but nearly 1,300 convicts occupied an exercise field, where they held 39 prison guards and employees hostage for four days. After negotiations stalled, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered the State Police to regain control of the prison by force. During the operation, six other correctional officers were killed: Edward Cunningham, John D'Archangelo Jr., Richard Lewis, Carl Valone, Ronald Werner and Harrison Whalen. Twenty-nine inmates and three civilian employees were also killed.
April 6, 1970
Four California Highway Patrolmen — George Alleyn, Walt Frago, Roger Gore and James Pence — died in a fierce, four-minute gun battle with two heavily-armed suspects near Valencia. Patrolmen Frago and Gore were shot and killed in the driveway of a service station after following a suspicious vehicle. Patrolmen Alleyn and Pence were the backup and arrived shortly thereafter, only to be killed in the ensuing gun battle. The gunmen were able to make the escape after firing upon the third and fourth units to arrive on the scene. One of the offenders was later captured, and the other committed suicide after taking several hostages. The Newhall Incident, named for the California Highway Patrol station where the officers worked, reverberated throughout the law enforcement community and led to major reforms in training procedures, firearms use and arrest techniques.
October 30, 1950
Eight members of the Puerto Rico Police Department were shot and killed during a political revolt led by the Nationalist Party, which was attempting to overthrow U.S. presence on the island. The insurrection called for the attack of every police department and military installation on Puerto Rico. The carnage almost was averted: the day before the planned attack, a large number of arrests were made by the Puerto Rico Police and FBI. However, the assault still went on and led to the deaths of dozens of individuals, including the eight law enforcement officials: Chief of Police Aurelio Miranda-Rivera, Lieutenant Ramon Villanueva-Moro, Corporal Ramon Robles-Castillo, and Policemen Virgilio Camacho-Reyes, Jesus Felciano-Ruiz, Luis Rivera-Cardona and Dionisio Rivera-Yolistruck.
January 2, 1932
In what became known as the Young Brothers Massacre, six Missouri lawmen were killed as they attempted to apprehend two suspects wanted in the murder of Greene County Marshal Mark Noe. They were Greene County Sheriff Marcell Hendrix; Deputies Ollie Crosswhite and Wiley Mashburn; and Chief of Detectives Tony Oliver, Detective Sidney Meadows and Officer Charley Houser, all of the Springfield Police Department. Acting on a tip, an 11-man posse went to the family farm belonging to the Young clan and surrounded the residence in an attempt to arrest the suspects. The posse was fired upon, and Sheriff Hendrix and Deputy Mashburn were struck. After witnessing the shooting, Deputy Crosswhite ran to the back of the house and entered through the kitchen door, hoping to catch the shooters off guard. But as he went to the back of the house he was fatally shot. The other three lawmen were killed in the ensuing shootout. The suspects fled to Texas, but were eventually tracked down. They committed suicide once their residence was surrounded.
October 3, 1929
Eight members of the Colorado Department of Corrections — Raymond Brown, John Eeles, Elmer Erwin, Myron H. Goodwin, John McClelland, Walter Rinker, Charles Shepherd and Robert Wiggins — were all killed in a deadly riot at the Colorado State Penitentiary. This incident was preceded earlier that summer by a series of riots in two New York prisons and the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, KS. In the Colorado riot, large sections of the prison were destroyed by fire, and it is estimated that more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition were fired during the melee. Though he ultimately died seven days later from gunshot wounds to the chest, Officer Goodwin is credited with helping stop a general break by the 1,200 inmates. Stationed in tower No. 1, Officer Goodwin threw away his keys when the attack started and began firing. He is credited with fatally shooting the ring leader of the disturbance.
November 24, 1917
In what remains the second deadliest day in U.S. law enforcement history (after September 11, 2001), nine Milwaukee Police officers were killed in a bomb blast at a police station. It was a Saturday evening, and a suspicious package was discovered alongside the Italian Evangelical Church in downtown Milwaukee. A scrubwoman for the church had discovered the package, and a boy named Sam Mazzone was summoned to take it to the police station. The boy arrived with the package shortly after 7 pm, as a group of detectives was filing out of roll call in the first floor assembly room. According to a police department report, “As detectives examined the package with a fury of haste, it exploded, immediately killing [nine police officers.]” The officers killed were Patrolman Henry Deckert and Detectives Frank Caswin, Fred Kaiser, David O'Brien, Stephen H. Stecker, Charles Seehawer, Edward Spindler, Al Templin and Paul Weiler. The culprits were never caught, but police linked the bombing to a group of anarchists who were seeking revenge against the pastor of the church that had been targeted.
April 6, 1902
Sheriff Charles Gassaway and five Colbert County (AL) Deputy Sheriffs were shot and killed while attempting to arrest a suspect for a fraud offense. The suspect informed the sheriff that he would be ready to go in a moment but returned with a Winchester rifle, immediately shooting Sheriff Gassaway and brother, Deputy William Gassaway. The suspect then barricaded himself in the house as other deputies arrived at the scene. Firing from inside the house, he shot and mortally wounded Deputies Jesse Davis, James Payne, Pat Prout and Bob Wallace. The suspect was eventually shot and killed after officers opened fire with more than 1,000 rounds.
September 8, 1900
On the evening of September 8, 1900, a massive hurricane (Category 4 by today's standards) struck the Gulf Coast at Galveston, TX. An estimated 8,000 people were killed, and the Galveston Police Department lost more than half of its officers in the storm. Four of those officers — Adolph Howe, F.L. Richards, Samuel Tovrea and Charles Wolfe — were killed as they attempted to rescue several families trapped in the downtown area.
July 27-28, 1900
The day after a suspect shot and wounded a New Orleans Police officer, a team of officers tracked the suspect to his home. When they entered, the suspect opened fire with a .38 caliber Winchester rifle, mortally wounding Captain John Day and Patrolman Peter Lamb. Other officers immediately surrounded the home, but the suspect was able to escape. Investigators soon received a tip with a location where the suspect was hiding. When officers arrived at the scene, the suspect shot and killed Sergeant Gabriel Porteous and Corporal John Lally and wounded three other officers before being killed himself.
July 19, 1898
An employee of an explosives company murdered a fellow worker in a dispute over lottery tickets, then barricaded himself in the building and threatened to blow it up if an attempt was made to arrest him. The standoff continued into the next day, when the suspect told a sheriff's deputy that he was ready to come out. As the deputies approached the building, an explosion shook the site, killing Deputies Daniel Cameron, Gustave Koch, John Lerri, Charles White and George Woodsum of the Alameda County (CA) Sheriff's Office. A female bystander and the suspect were also killed in the blast.
December 15, 1890
Six officers with the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs eventually died after attempting to arrest Sitting Bull, the leader of the Sioux Indian tribe in South Dakota: Lieutenant Henry Bullhead, Sergeants James Little Eagle and Charles Shavehead, Private Paul Akicitah, and Officers John Armstrong and David Hawkman. After arresting the Chief, the officers were traveling back to their headquarters when they were attacked by a group led by the chief's son. Four officers were killed immediately and two were seriously wounded in the attack. The Sioux Chief was also killed, along with his son. The two injured officers later died of their wounds.
May 4, 1886
Eight Chicago Police officers eventually died following a violent labor dispute known as the Haymarket Riot. The officers were at the scene of a civil disturbance when the rioters opened fire and threw a bomb into the crowd. Killed in May 1890 were Patrolmen John Barrett, Mathias Degan, Nels Hansen, George Miller, Thomas Redden, and Michael Sheehan. Patrolman Timothy O'Sullivan succumbed to his injuries two years later, in June 1888. Seventy other people were injured by the gunfire and explosion.
May 1, 1885
Four members of the U.S. Marshals Service were shot and killed when their posse was ambushed while attempting to arrest several horse thieves near Calico Creek, Oklahoma. Deputy Marshal Jim Guy and Special Deputy Marshals Bill Kirksey, Andy Roff and James Roff were all shot and killed. Two of the suspects were also fatally shot, and two others were charged with murder, although they were acquitted.
March 14, 1873
Following the wounding in January 1873 of the Sheriff of Lampasas County, TX, a posse of seven state police officers was sent to a saloon to enforce a law prohibiting the wearing of side arms. The posse had arrested one man outside the saloon, and when they attempted to enter the saloon a gun battle ensued and three members of the Texas State Police were killed instantly: Captain Thomas Williams and Privates Wesley Cherry and J.M. Daniels. Private Andrew Melville died one month later from wounds he suffered in the gunfight.
April 15, 1872
Eight Deputy U.S. Marshals were shot and killed in what came to be known as the Going Snake Massacre, which occurred in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The lawmen went to a murder trial armed with an arrest warrant to detain the defendant if he was acquitted. As the lawmen approached the building, they were fired upon by a group of men who were waiting inside. Six members of the posse were killed on the spot: Special Deputies Black Sut Beck, Sam Beck, William Hicks, Jim Ward and Riley Woods, along with Posseman George Selvidge. Posseman William Beck and Deputy Marshal Jacob Owens died the next day of their wounds.
November 16, 1859
What became known as the Cortina War started when Juan Cortina, the heir to a large land grant in the lower Rio Grande valley that included the area around Brownsville, witnessed the city marshal pistol-whipping an intoxicated Mexican citizen who had previously been employed by the Cortina family. Cortina shot the marshal in the shoulder and fled on his horse with the prisoner. In September 1859, Cortina and 60-100 men rode into Brownsville intent on seeking revenge for numerous grievances. The Governor or Texas Governor Runnels authorized a company of 100 rangers from San Antonio to quell the lawlessness in Brownsville. On November 16, a detachment of 30 rangers spotted a band of Cortinistas about a mile from Palo Alto and pursued them into the chaparral. In a vicious gunfight that lasted only 30 minutes, Texas Ranger Privates John Fox, Thomas Grier, William McKay and Nicholas R. Milett were killed, and four others were badly wounded.
January 23, 1857
Los Angeles County (CA) Sheriff James Barton and three of his officers-Constables Charles Baker and William Little and Deputy Charles Daly-were shot and killed while attempting to arrest members of the notorious Flores-Daniels Gang. The gang ambushed the officers, killing them. Eventually, 52 members of the gang were arrested and 18 were hung for the murders.
Updated March 2010
Information in the report was compiled by the NLEOMF Research Department, with assistance from the Officer Down Memorial Page.