On April 18, 2013, 27-year-old Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, was shot and killed as he sat in his patrol car on campus. His alleged killer: one of the two brothers suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings three days earlier.
Collier was one of 27 police officers fatally wounded in the line of duty last year, according to the FBI, which released its annual report on the topic Monday. Forty-nine others died in accidents.
The bureau compiles a wealth of statistics on law enforcement deaths: The number decreased by 45 percent compared with the 49 officers killed in 2012. The average age of the officer killed last year was 39. All but two were white. Two were black. Two were female.
Six were killed while making arrests. Five were ambushed. Four were involved in tactical situations. All but one were killed with a firearm. One was struck and killed by a vehicle.
But there is no reliable data on the number of civilians who are killed by police officers each year, The Post’s Wes Lowery reported in September.
The police shooting of an unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson has shined a spotlight on the issue. And early Sunday, a Cleveland police officer fatally wounded a 12-year-old boy brandishing what turned out to be a BB gun. Days earlier, an unarmed man was accidentally shot and killed by a police officer in a Brooklyn housing project. All three victims were black.
Police unions insist that shootings by officers are rare and even more rarely unjustified. Civil rights groups have just as quickly ascribed racial motives to many of the shootings, declaring that black and brown men are being “executed” by officers, Lowery reported.
Complicating the debate is the fact that there is no reliable national data on how many people are shot by police officers each year. Federal officials allow the nation’s more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies to self-report officer shootings. That figure, Lowery reported, hovers around 400 “justifiable homicides” by law enforcement each year.
Several independent trackers, primarily journalists and academics who study criminal justice, insist the accurate number of people shot and killed by police officers each year is consistently upwards of 1,000 each year, Lowery reported.
Meanwhile, the FBI has warned about “a growing domestic threat to law enforcement” coming from people who believe that state and federal governments operate illegally in the United States.
Earlier this year, two officers with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department were shot –one in the back of the head, the other in the throat and then multiple times after that–in a pizza joint near the Las Vegas Strip. Their assailants were a couple, Jerad and Amanda Miller, who placed a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and a swastika on one of the officer’s bodies. They pinned a note to the other’s body that read “This is the beginning of the revolution,” The Post’s Mark Berman reported. Jared Miller was killed by police; his wife committed suicide.
There is a movement that believes that the federal government has dangerously overstepped its authority, and within that movement are groups that believe they need to be ready to fight back against any perceived overreach, Berman reported.