U.S. police officer deaths jump nearly one-third in first half of 2014

LAPD Officer Roberto Sanchez was killed when an SUV smashed into his police cruiser as he followed a suspect on May 3 in Harbor City.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

The number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty nationwide jumped 31% in the first half of 2014 with California leading the nation with eight deaths, data shows.

In the first half of the year, 67 officers died in the line of duty in the U.S. compared with 51 in the same period in 2013, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

The number marks the first major increase in several years. For the entire year of 2013, there were 100 deaths — the lowest recorded number since World War II, according to data gathered by the memorial fund.

“We had seen significant declines in officer fatalities the last two years, so the spike in deaths this year is particularly alarming,” said memorial Chairman and Chief Executive Craig W. Floyd.

Traffic accidents remain the leading cause of officer fatalities, accounting for 26 deaths so far. But the increase in firearms deaths, from 16 in the first half of 2013 to 25 so far this year, amounts to a 56% increase over 2013.


There were also 16 deaths due to job-related illnesses and other causes, the same as in 2013.

California has seen the most law enforcement officers killed of any state so far with eight; the Los Angeles Police Department had three officers killed in vehicle incidents in that period.

Nicholas Lee, 40, was killed in March when a truck on a steep Beverly Hills grade lost control, smashing into his cruiser. Lee was passing through to a part of Los Angeles.

Veteran LAPD motorcycle officer Christopher Cortijo, 51, died the next month after a suspect allegedly under the influence of drugs struck him from behind in the San Fernando Valley.

Roberto Sanchez was killed in May when an SUV smashed into his police cruiser as he followed a suspect. The driver of the vehicle has been charged with murder and accused of deliberately ramming the police car.

California’s worst year for officer deaths was 1970, when 30 officers died in the line of duty.

Nationally, of the 25 fallen officers who were shot, six were struck down investigating suspicious persons or situations and five were ambushed.

During the first half of 2014, May marked the peak month for deaths with 18 officer fatalities. Mondays are the most deadly day of the week, with 15 officers dying on a Monday, the data shows.

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