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Working in law enforcement is one of the most dangerous jobs in America, but as of early May — 2019 is shaping up to be the least deadliest year for officers in the line of duty since 1965, according to data from the Officer Down Memorial Page.
As of May 9, 40 officers have died in the line of duty, from causes ranging from being hit by vehicles to suffering medical emergencies. The last time the overall number was at 40 — at this point in the year — was in 1965.
Here are the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in 2019 while trying to protect the lives of Americans.
Trooper Matthew Gatti
Gatti, a 24-year-old Tennessee State Trooper, was killed in a crash on May 6 while responding to a call about a car fire along Interstate-40.
Officials told WMC-TV that while heading to the scene, Gatti had lost control of his police cruiser and struck a tractor-trailer before hitting into another tractor-trailer.
In June, he would have celebrated his one-year anniversary of joining the state’s Highway Patrol, according to the Jackson Sun.
Police Officer Anthony Neri
Neri, a 63-year-old officer in Sanibel, Fla., “passed away of natural causes” on May 6 after he “collapsed during a training exercise,” the department said.
Officials added that Neri had a 30-year career as a Revenue Officer with the U.S. Department of Treasury, while also serving as a police officer in New Jersey’s Union Township.
Police Officer Robert McKeithen
McKeithen, an Air Force veteran and longtime officer with the Biloxi Police Department in Mississippi, was gunned down in the parking lot of their headquarters on May 5.
McKeithen earned a Medal of Valor for saving special needs children from a flooded home during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but his 24-year police career came to an end when the suspect shot him multiple times, for reasons still unknown.
The search for his alleged killer ended after another officer from the department spotted the suspected gunman walking along the side of the road in a city 30 miles away.
K9 Officer Jordan Harris Sheldon
K9 Officer Jordan Harris Sheldon, 32, was killed in North Carolina in May.
Sheldon, 32, was shot and killed on May 4 while conducting a traffic stop in Mooresville, N.C., outside of Charlotte.
It’s not clear what caused Sheldon to stop the suspect’s vehicle, but the alleged killer was later found dead in his apartment from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Mooresville’s police chief said. Sheldon was a 6-year veteran of the department and was with his K9 dog Ramon at the time of the shooting.
“The pain and sorrow that we feel is — can’t express it,” the town’s mayor, Miles Atkins, said at a news conference regarding Sheldon’s death.
Special Agent in Charge Liquat A. “Leo” Khan
Khan, an Army Criminal Investigation Command special agent, died on April 30 after he collapsed during a physical fitness test at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
The 51-year-old, who joined the Army after 9/11 and went on to serve two combat tours during a career spanning more than 15 years, was found lying on a road. He was taken by an ambulance to a hospital and pronounced dead.
Conservation Officer Eugene Wynn, Jr.
Wynn, who worked with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, drowned on April 19 after getting thrown from a boat while responding to a call about a possible body floating in a lake near Pine City. His body was recovered from the frigid waters after a search that lasted five hours.
The state’s governor, Tim Walz, described Wynn was an outstanding officer who was admired and respected by his colleagues and served with dignity and pride.
He is survived by his wife and two children, ages 5 and 11.
Police Officer Kyle Olinger
Olinger, an officer with the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland, died on April 18 from complications linked to a gunshot wound he suffered during a traffic stop in 2003.
One of the passengers in the vehicle Olinger pulled over in Silver Spring that year fired a round and hit him in the neck, leaving him paralyzed.
Prior to joining the Montgomery County Police Department, Olinger was an officer in Reading, Pa., for six years.
Deputy Sheriff Justin Richard DeRosier
DeRosier, 29, was shot and killed in the line of duty after responding to a report of a disabled vehicle blocking a roadway northeast of Kalama on April 13. He was struck shortly after arriving at the scene and died during surgery, officials said.
“Deputy DeRosier made a huge impact in his short career and will forever live in our hearts and mind,” the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement following his death. DeRosier’s killer was the half-brother of a man who killed a police chief in Oregon eight years ago, authorities later said.
A 2012 graduate of Washington State University and a deputy since 2016, DeRosier is survived by his wife and young daughter.
Sergeant Steven L. Licon
Licon, a motorcycle officer with the California Highway Patrol, was killed on April 6 after being struck by a vehicle during a traffic stop.
Authorities said it appeared Licon was struck by an “errant driver” on the shoulder of Interstate 15 in Lake Elsinore, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles, according to reports at the time.
The 57-year-old served with the highway patrol for nearly three decades and leaves behind his wife, daughter and step-daughter.
Deputy Sheriff Spencer Allen Englett
Englett, 29, died on April 4 from a “traumatic medical event” he suffered at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Pickens County, according to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Ron Freeman said Englett collapsed during his first day of training there and was rushed to a local hospital, where he later was pronounced dead.
Englett had joined the sheriff’s office in May 2017 after working for authorities in Baldwin County.
Detective Benjamin J. Campbell
Campbell, a Maine State Trooper, was killed on April 3 after being hit by a stray truck wheel while responding to the scene of a disabled car along Interstate-95 in Hampden.
Campbell, 31, was attending to the vehicle when two wheels detached from a truck passing by, state police said.
“On behalf of the people of Maine, I express our deepest and unwavering gratitude for Detective Campbell’s service,” Gov. Janet Mills said at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife and infant son, who is less than 1-year-old.
Trooper Gerald Wayne Ellis
Ellis, an Illinois State Trooper and U.S. Army veteran, was killed on March 30 on Interstate 94 in Lake County. The 36-year-old was traveling home in his squad car when a wrong-way driver struck him head-on.
The vehicle was driving eastbound in the westbound expressway lanes. Ellis was an 11-year state police veteran, and the agency’s director, Brendan Kelly, described the loss of him as “bitter salt in an open wound.”
Trooper Brooke Jones-Story
Jones-Story, also an Illinois State Trooper, was killed just two days before Ellis while conducting a traffic stop.
“During the inspection… a truck tractor semi-trailer combination veered off the roadway, struck Trooper Jones-Story’s squad car, whose emergency lights were activated, struck the commercial motor vehicle she was conducting the inspection on and fatally struck Trooper Jones-Story, who was outside of her vehicle at the time of the crash,” said the agency’s acting director Brendan F. Kelly.
Jones-Story, a 12-year veteran who “paid the ultimate sacrifice,” leaves behind her husband, two step-children and a step-grandchild, as well as other family members, he added.
Deputy Sheriff Peter Herrera
Herrera was conducting a traffic stop on March 22 in San Elizario — about 25 miles southeast of El Paso — when a man in the vehicle opened fire, striking him multiple times, authorities said.
The 35-year-old with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office was wearing body armor during the attack and a spokesman said the “rounds that actually struck some of the more vital areas of his upper body were stopped by the vest.” But Herrera succumbed to his injuries two days later at a local hospital.
Herrera did not return fire during the incident and the shooter fled on foot along with a female passenger. Deputies found the pair hiding in a tool shed a few blocks away from the crime scene and the alleged gunman is now facing a capital murder charge.
Police Officer Paul Thomas Rutherford
Rutherford, a U.S. Air Force veteran and longtime member of the Phoenix Police Department, was killed on March 21 after being hit by a vehicle in the western part of the city.
Police officials said the 51-year-old officer was struck where police were investigating a collision. Rutherford, who served the department for 23 years, reportedly was attempting to respond to another call about a reported incident across the street and was hit while trying to cross it.
The driver of the vehicle, identified only as a 40-year-old woman, stayed at the scene and cooperated with police. Sgt. Tommy Thompson said officers determined she was not impaired.
Deputy Sheriff Ryan Shane Thompson
Thompson, 42, was gunned down on March 19 after he and a fellow Kittitas police officer responded to a driving complaint and attempted to stop a vehicle.
After a short pursuit, the suspect exited the car and exchanged gunfire with the officers, killing Thompson and wounding his colleague. The suspect was also shot and later died.
Kittitas County Sheriff Gene Dana said the killing of Thompson was the first fatal shooting of a law enforcement officer in the rural county in 92 years
Corporal Daniel H. Groves
Groves, a member of the Colorado State Patrol, died on March 13 after being struck by a vehicle as a blizzard hit parts of the state.
He was assisting a vehicle that slid off Interstate 76 in Weld County when someone driving a Volvo “lost control” and hit Groves, who was outside of his patrol vehicle, Colorado State Patrol said at the time.
Groves had served in the Patrol since July 2007.
Deputy Sheriff Jacob Howard Keltner
Keltner, of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, was killed in the line of duty on March 7 while trying to arrest a man on a burglary warrant at a hotel in Rockford. The suspect allegedly shot him in the head.
Keltner leaves behind a wife and two young children. Sheriff Bill Prim called the deputy a “great guy” and a “fine man.”
His alleged killer — who reportedly has a lengthy rap sheet — is now back in jail on a first-degree murder charge. He had been let out of prison last January for good behavior — and after fleeing the scene of the shooting, led responding officers on a high-speed chase and engaged them in a tense standoff before finally being arrested.
Police Officer Nathan Hayden Heidelberg
Midland Police Officer Nathan Hayden Heidelberg, 28, was killed in March in Texas.
Heidelberg, 28, died on March 5 while responding to a call in the early morning hours about a security alarm going off at a home in Midland, Texas.
Authorities said other Midland Police Department officers heard Heidelberg loudly announce that police were at the residence before he went inside and was allegedly shot by the homeowner.
Heidelberg, a five-year police veteran, was struck just above his protective vest. He later died at a hospital. The property owner is now facing a second-degree manslaughter charge, but his attorney claims he thought a home invasion was under way and he only opened fire to protect his family.
Sergeant Steve Hinkle
Hinkle, with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, was shot on Feb. 23 when a welfare check at a home in the area morphed into a firefight.
The suspect opened fire at police who showed up at the property and then barricaded himself inside, prompting an hours-long standoff in which officers returned fire.
Hinkle was struck at one point and was taken to the hospital in serious condition. Police eventually entered the home and found the suspected shooter dead. Hinkle, who served the department for 32 years, succumbed to his injuries days later.
Police Officer Nicholas Scott Galinger
Galinger, who had just graduated from the Chattanooga Police Department’s academy, was in his second month on the job when he was allegedly hit and killed by a driver on Feb. 23 while inspecting a manhole cover that had water flowing from it due to heavy rain.
The suspect who fled the scene turned herself in hours after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation put her on its Top Ten Most Wanted list.
Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy said the community “lost not just an officer. We lost a son, a father, a friend, and a protector.”
Undersheriff Monty Thomas Johnson
Johnson died on Feb. 21 in Oklahoma after another vehicle crossed the center line of a highway and struck him head-on.
The Pawnee County undersheriff was “always extremely helpful and he really cared about helping people,” Ken Moore, the assistant police chief in Yale, told KTUL following his death.
Lieutenant Daniel Duane Hinton
Hinton, a longtime Florida Highway Patrol trooper, died on Feb. 19 after suffering a heart attack during a training exercise.
The 56-year-old had worked with the Patrol for more than three decades, becoming an instructor in many fields and racking up numerous awards, including recognitions from the Drug Enforcement Agency.
He is survived by his wife, three children, three grandchildren, mother, brother and sister.
Agent Alfred Zanyet-Perez
Zanyet-Perez, an officer with the Puerto Rico Police Department, was gunned down on Feb. 15 while conducting an undercover operation in the U.S. island territory.
Local reports said the 52-year-old, assigned to a Drugs and Narcotics Division, was hit in the torso by a mystery shooter in a passing vehicle. Officials tasked with investigating Zanyet-Perez’s death say the killing and undercover operation appear to be unrelated.
He leaves behind his wife and eight children.
Detective Brian P. Simonsen
Simonsen, a detective with the New York City Police Department, was killed by friendly fire while responding to a chaotic robbery scene on Feb. 12 in the Queens borough.
The suspect in that incident — described as a career criminal — was brandishing a fake firearm and Simonsen reportedly was hit by other officers while trying to retreat.
In his 19-year career, Simonsen made nearly 600 arrests, most of them for felonies. “He was exceedingly good at his job,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said at his funeral, “making connections with the evidence” and also reconnecting crime victims “with the hope that was stolen from them.”
Police Officer Matthew J. Rittner
Rittner, a 17-year veteran of the Milwaukee Police Department, was killed on Feb. 6 after being shot in the chest while helping serve a search warrant for suspected illegal guns and drugs at a Milwaukee duplex.
His wife, Caroline, revealed in early May that she is pregnant — and found out the news three days after her husband’s funeral.
“It was met with mixed emotions,” police Lt. Kristin Felsman told WISN-TV. “Extremely joyful emotions because, [it’s] another legacy of Matt, and obviously very sad emotions because Matt would not be there to share in the joy of a new life.”
Trooper Lucas Bartley Dowell
Dowell, a Virginia State Trooper, died on Feb. 4 after a shooting broke out during an attempt to serve a search warrant in the town of Farmville.
“The Tactical Team had made entry into the residence shortly before 10 p.m. Monday when an adult male inside the residence began shooting at them,” Virginia State Police said in a news release at the time. Dowell was hit, and later succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital.
Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent, said the 28-year-old “will forever be remembered by his State Police Family for his great strength of character, tenacity, valor, loyalty and sense of humor.” A Chick-fil-A restaurant he regularly dined at had set up a makeshift memorial in his honor.
Border Patrol Agent Donna Doss
Doss was killed in the line of duty on Feb. 2 when she was struck by a vehicle while crossing an Interstate 20 access road near Abilene, Texas. She was responding to a call for assistance from a Texas State Trooper.
“Agent Doss died while performing her duty, protecting the community and the United States. Our heart, prayers, and support go out to Agent Doss’ family in this time of need,” Del Rio Sector Acting Chief Patrol Agent Matthew Hudak said.
Doss, 49, had been with the patrol since November 2003 and is survived by her parents, husband, two stepchildren and two brothers.
Detective William Lee Brewer
Detective William Lee Brewer was killed in February in Ohio.
Brewer died on Feb. 2 after being shot during a 12-hour standoff at an apartment complex in Pierce Township, Ohio. The suspected shooter apparently broadcast portions of it to his social media followers on Instagram.
“Deputy Brewer gave his life attempting to help a person who was admittedly suicidal,” said Sheriff Steve Leahy. “This will forever change the atmosphere of the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office.”
The alleged gunman — whom prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for — later appeared in court with visible wounds on his face.
Corporal Shane Michael Totty
The Baton Rouge officer, who was a new father to a baby girl and was planning his wedding, died on Feb. 1 after a pickup truck plowed into his motorcycle during a funeral procession.
Totty, 31, had returned to work just several months prior to his death after being shot in February 2018 while responding to a call. He had made a full recovery following a temporary loss of sight in one eye and other injuries.
“Life was good for him. He had survived this near-death experience and everything was positive and going his way,” former Baton Rouge Capt. Don Kelly said. “How tragic that everything could be taken away in the blink of an eye. We’re all hurting.”
Deputy Sheriff Joshua Bryan “LJ” Ryer, Jr.
The Glascock County Sheriff’s deputy, who was only 19 and had aspirations to become a federal law enforcement officer, died in a car crash in Georgia at the end of January.
He was heading to the Regional Youth Detention Center in Washington on Jan. 29 to pick up an individual when he failed to stop at a stop sign and was struck on the driver’s side by another vehicle, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
Police Officer Sean Paul Tuder
Mobile Police Officer Sean Paul Tuder was killed in January in Alabama.
Tuder, who was also a member of the Alabama National Guard, “was doing some follow-up work on an investigation” when he was “gunned down by a suspect” at a motel in West Mobile on Jan. 20, Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste said.
The alleged shooter was wanted by Mobile police for property theft and for allegedly filing a false report. A detective, Fox 10 reported, later testified in court that they received a tip that he was hiding out at the motel after being on the run from law enforcement for several weeks.
Tuder was named “Officer of the Month” in August 2017 and was praised at the time for “his numerous drug arrests, with four cases being sent for federal prosecution, and recovering six firearms.”
Deputy Sheriff Ray Elwin Horn
Horn, an 11-year veteran of the Comal County Sheriff’s Office, died on Jan. 17 after suffering a medical episode while traveling home from work in his patrol car.
Officials said he lost control of his vehicle northeast of San Antonio and it became part of a three-car pile-up. Horn was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Normal D. Merkel
Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Norman Merkel died in the line of duty due to a medical condition in the fitness room of the federal courthouse in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Jan. 16. He was 45.
Merkel was assigned to the Marshals Service’s Southern District of Texas his entire career. He was a supervisor in Corpus Christi and task force commander of the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders and Fugitive Task Force.
Merkel also was an Army veteran and deputy sheriff in McIntosh County, North Dakota, before joining the Marshals Service in 2001.
Sergeant WyTasha Lamar Carter
Sergeant WyTasha Lamar Carter was killed in January in Alabama.
Carter, an officer with the Birmingham Police Department in Alabama, died on Jan. 13 after being shot during an investigation into a suspected car burglary.
Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith said Carter and another officer approached two suspects — one of which opened fire — after a plainclothes officer spotted at least one of them going around and checking door handles on cars parked outside of a nightclub.
Carter was a U.S. Air Force veteran, and in 2016, he was one of three officers who saved two young girls trapped in the rubble of a home whose roof and chimney had collapsed.
Trooper Christopher Lambert
Lambert, an Illinois State Trooper, was struck and killed on Jan. 12 while investigating a car crash on Interstate 294 near Northbrook — about 25 miles north of Chicago.
The 34-year-old was traveling home when he saw the three-car accident, pulled over, and stepped outside — only to be hit by a Jeep traveling in the same direction. After being thrown several feet from the impact, a nurse at the scene performed CPR on Lambert, but he later was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Trooper Duane Chappell said Lambert “worked really hard every day for five years” and he leaves behind a 1-year-old child.
Police Officer Natalie Becky Corona
Corona, a 22-year-old officer in Davis, Calif., died on Jan. 10 after being fatally shot while responding to a traffic accident, prompting a massive manhunt for the gunman, who later killed himself.
While at the scene of the collision, the gunman rode up on a bicycle and began firing indiscriminately, striking Corona, a nearby firetruck, a house, a passing bus and the backpack of a woman whose life was spared when the bullet became lodged in a textbook. Police called it an “ambush”-style attack.
Corona had graduated from the Sacramento Police Department’s training academy in July and was described by her bosses as a “rising star in the department.” Her death was the first in the line-of-duty for Davis police in 60 years.
Police Officer Clayton Joel Townsend
Townsend, a member of the Salt River Police Department, died in Scottsdale, Ariz. on Jan. 8 after being struck on the side of the road while conducting a traffic stop.
The state’s department of public safety says the driver told “detectives he had been texting during the time his vehicle entered the right-side emergency lane and struck the police officer”.
Townsend, who had been with the department for five years, leaves behind a wife and 10-month-old child.
Police Officer Dale James Woods
Woods, a 15-year veteran of Ohio’s Colerain Township Police Department, died on Jan. 7 after succumbing to injuries he suffered days earlier when he was hit by a pickup truck while trying to remove traffic cones from the scene of a car accident.
Colerain Township police said the 46-year-old died at a hospital after being there for several days in critical condition.
Police Chief Mark Denney said the father of three left behind “a grateful police department and a grateful community”, and hundreds turned out for a vigil in his honor.
Master Police Officer Joseph William Shinners
Shinners was shot and killed on Jan. 5 while trying to apprehend a “dangerous fugitive” near a Bed Bath & Beyond in Orem, roughly 40 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Investigators said it appeared Shinners — an officer with the Provo Police Department — was able to return fire and hit the suspect at least once. The man charged with killing Shinners later was captured and identified as a 40-year-old with an extensive criminal record dating back more than two decades.
Provo Police Chief Rich Ferguson said he posthumously promoted Shinners to the rank of master officer.
Fox News’ Nicole Darrah, Bradford Betz, Louis Casiano, Elizabeth Zwirz, Stephen Sorace, Ryan Gaydos, Paulina Dedaj, Jennifer Earl, Travis Fedschun, Dom Calicchio, Katherine Lam, Amy Lieu and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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