Local law enforcement leaders respond to recent deaths
By Jefferson Weaver, The News Reporter
Two more law enforcement officers died in the line of duty this week, as local officers prepared to observe Peace Officers Memorial Day Thursday.
An N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper died in a fiery crash in Wilkes County Tuesday, and a Baltimore County, Md., officer was run down by a criminal suspect. A sheriff’s deputy was also killed when a car rammed the restaurant where she was having lunch last weekend, but that officer was not on duty at the time.
So far this year, 56 officers across the country have been killed in the line of duty, either through violence or accidental deaths, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Baltimore County is near and dear to the heart of Whiteville Police Chief Jeff Rosier. While B.C.P.D. Officer Amy Caprio came to work with the department after he left, much of Rosier’s career prior to Whiteville was spent there.
“This is the police department I spent 30 years of my law enforcement career with, so the grief and sorrow I feel is profound,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers are with the officer and her family and all the members of the B.C.P.D.”
Sheriff Lewis Hatcher retired from the Highway Patrol to come to work for the sheriff’s office. He knows the dangers involved in traffic stops and pursuits like the one that killed Trooper Samuel Newton Bullard Monday night.
The Highway Patrol reported that Bullard and another trooper were conducting a routine license checkpoint in Yadkin County when a black BMW sped through the checkpoint. The two troopers pursued the vehicle onto I-77, where the lead officer lost sight of Bullard. He broke off the chase after failing to raise Bullard on the radio. Bullard’s vehicle was located at mile marker 82 at a bridge abutment fully engulfed in flames.
The BMW was later found abandoned. The male driver of the car was arrested Tuesday after a multi-state manhunt. He has been charged with murder, speeding to elude, and other charges. His female companion has not been captured.
A lack of respect plays a big role in the rising rate of line of duty deaths, Hatcher said.
“LEO deaths are on the rise because violence is on the rise,” he said. “Officers continue to enforce the laws of the land. However, there are many more elements that officers now have to deal with. The service calls have increased, as has the traffic on the road. Our officers today must always be watching and prepared to act, both on and off duty.
“Any call can become an explosive situation.”
Changes in society have also meant major changes in law enforcement techniques, Hatcher said.
“The violence is not just coming form the ‘bad guys’ any more,” Hatcher said. “It can be every day neighbors feuding over little things that escalate. Domestic calls are more frequent and embroiled with emotions. Home invasions are up. Many citizens are carrying weapons in their persons for self-protection.”
“The law enforcement profession in America has changed,” Rosier agreed, “and we are seeing a rise in violent on-duty deaths of police officers. However, the officers that work the streets today will be there tomorrow, and the day after. This is why they take the job, to protect our citizens and uphold the state and federal constitutions every day, even if it means the ultimate sacrifice.”
“I’m proud to say I’ve worked with, and continue to work with the courageous and committed men and women of this profession that make sure our freedoms are protected from the small malicious and criminal elements of society,” Rosier said. “The courage and heroism of those lost will live on in their departments forever, just as the efforts to maintain a free and protected society will continue because of these officers of today and tomorrow.”
Hatcher said support from civilians is a big boost for law enforcement officers.
“The people must continuously pray for these men and women that have chosen a career to protect their communities,” he said. “Plead for a cloak of protection around them each and every day. Remember they have families and lives just as each of us do.”
“This is their calling,” Rosier said. “God bless them.”