End of Watch 2011
Here we are again at the first of a new year. It also marks my second “End of Watch” blog post. This is not my usual cheery, laughter filled writing. It is the hardest post I’ve written since this time last year. But, this post reminds us what being a police officer entails. This year I have chosen 4 Officer’s stories to share with my readers. Some give all.
2011 brought a total of 162 officer deaths, which is up 1% over 2010. 65 were the result of homicide by gunfire, 12 were murdered by vehicular assault, 5 died by physical assault and 2 were stabbed to death. Death by gunfire was up 11 percent from 2010. There were 59 officers killed in vehicle accidents, which was down 17% from the previous year.
Texas, and Florida top the list with 13 officer deaths per state. New York had 11 deaths and Georgia ties with California with 10 deaths each. In my home state of Arizona we had 3 fallen officers. There were 151 men and 11 women who gave their lives protecting the streets. The average age was 40 and the average tour of duty was 12 years and 7 months.
The End of Watch for an officer culminates at the funeral when his or her watch/patrol is turned over to fellow officers. The dispatcher who monitored the officer at their time of death makes the last radio broadcast and officially passes the watch to all his or her brothers and sisters in blue. This is the single most heartbreaking moment I’ve experienced as an officer.
DEPUTY SHERIFF SUZANNE HOPPER
Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio
End of Watch: Saturday, January 1, 2011
Deputy Sheriff Suzanne Hopper was the first police death in 2011. Deputy Hopper was shot and killed after responding to a call of a window being shot out at a trailer park. She was investigating the scene and taking photographs when a male subject opened the door of his trailer then shot and killed her with his shotgun. Deputy Hopper is survived by her husband and 4 children. She was 40-years-old and had been an officer for 12 years.
PATROLMAN JONATHAN SCHMIDT
Trumann Police Department, Arkansas
End of Watch: Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Police Officer Jonathan Schmidt was shot and killed when he and his sergeant made a stop on a vehicle for operating without insurance. The driver was placed under arrest for an outstanding warrant. Patrolman Schmidt opened the rear passenger door to remove a second male passenger when the man immediately opened fire. Patrolman Schmidt was shot in the neck but turned and pushed his sergeant out of the way before returning fire. Officer Schmidt was 30-years-old and had served as an officer for four years. He is survived by his wife and 3 children.
DEPUTY SHERIFF KURT WYMAN
Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, New York
End of Watch: Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Deputy Sheriff Kurt Wyman was shot and killed during a standoff following a domestic disturbance. A man had barricaded himself in his garage with a shotgun. Negotiations were underway when Deputy Wyman approached the man with his Taser and the subject opened fire and killed him. Deputy Wyman was 24-years-old and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. His wife went into labor upon hearing of her husband’s death and gave birth to his daughter. He is also survived by his 18-month-old son.
PATROLMAN DEREK KOTECKI
Lower Burrell Police Department, Pennsylvania
End of Watch: Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Officer Derek Kotecki was shot and killed while investigating the sighting of a wanted man at a local fast food restaurant. The suspect was hiding in the back seat of an SUV. As Patrolman Kotecki and his canine, Odin, approached, the man opened fire striking Officer Kotecki in the head, abdomen, and arm. K9 Odin was uninjured but had to be muzzled after refusing to leave his handler’s side. Officer Kotecki was 40-years-old and had been an officer for 18 years. He is survived by his wife and 2 children.
Choosing 4 of the 162 officers was a long tear-filled experience. I read every story at the Officer Down Memorial Page. Deputy Hopper was chosen because she was the first officer killed in 2011 and anytime a female officer dies, it hits close to home. Officer Jonathan Schmidt showed incredible heroism when he pushed his Sergeant away from harm and saved a life as his own slipped away. In Deputy Sheriff Kurt Wyman’s short life he served proudly as a Marine and then went on to wear a police badge. His baby girl being born upon his death will stay with me for a long time. Officer Derek Kotecki, your K9 Odin would not leave your side even after your spirit had left your body. That dedication could not go unwritten.
To the 162 men and women who gave their lives, I am honored to serve as a police officer and proud to help take over your watch. God bless you and your families along with your fellow officers who mourn you still. Rest in peace.