The Last Officer Down

The Last Officer Down

By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D

As we watch the numbers throughout each year, week by week we read of the officers lost in the line of duty. Crashes, shootings, ambushes, and duty-related illnesses, take their toll. We hold our breath at the end of the year, wondering with fearful anticipation who might be the last officer murdered as midnight, December 31st comes around.

In 2021 on December 31st Cleveland Ohio rookie officer Shane Bartek, age 25, died while off duty attempting to arrest an armed hijacker. The suspect female approached Bartek with the intent to steal his car at gunpoint. Bartek attempted to disarm the offender and was shot during the struggle. He had served 1 ½ years. The suspect and an associate were apprehended in Bartek’s stolen vehicle later that day.

In 2020 on December 16th Concord, North Carolina Police Officer Jason Shuping was shot and killed while responding to an attempted carjacking. Like Bartek, in addition to dying while intervening in a carjacking, Shuping was also 25 with 1 ½ years on the job. While investigating a crash with an abandoned vehicle, a citizen reported an attempted carjacking at a nearby Sonic restaurant. Officers arrived, encountered the suspect, and came under immediate gunfire. Shuping was killed and a fellow officer was wounded. The suspect attempted to flee by stealing another car but was engaged by other responding officers who killed the suspect in an exchange of gunfire.

In 2019 in the wee hours of the last day of December, Deputy Sheriff Chris Dickerson of the Panola County Sheriff’s Office, Texas was shot and killed while making a traffic stop. During the contact, the driver suddenly emerged from the vehicle with a rifle and shot Dickerson six times. Neighbors who went to investigate the sound of gunshots found the deputy laying wounded in the roadway. He was taken to the hospital where he died a short time later. The suspect was arrested later in Louisiana after a K9 located him where he had fled from crashing his car.  Deputy Dickerson was a military veteran and had served Panola County for eight years.

In 2018 Henry County Police Department, Georgia Officer Michael Smith succumbed to a gunshot wound sustained on December 6th, the complications from which resulted in his death on December 28th. Smith was called to a dentist’s office on a man causing a disturbance. The man was combative on Smith’s arrival and the two struggled. Smith used his Taser on the suspect with no effect. The suspect attempted to gain control of Smith’s duty weapon during which time the weapon discharged, killing the suspect and wounding the officer. Smith, 33, had served the department for seven years.

In 2017  Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado Deputy Sheriff Zackari Parrish responded to an emotionally disturbed man at an apartment complex. Parrish and other officers attempted to communicate with the man who barricaded himself in a bedroom in the apartment. The man opened fire with a rifle, wounding three other officers and killing Parrish. Arriving SWAT officers attempted to re-enter the apartment to rescue Parrish and the suspect fired again wounding another officer but was killed by officers. The suspect had wounded two civilians in addition to the officers he shot. During his attack, the suspect fired over 100 rounds. Parrish had nine years of law enforcement service.

In 2016 Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Landon Eugene Weaver was the last officer murdered that year. Trooper Weaver had served for just one year when he responded to a report of a domestic disturbance in rural Huntingdon County. Weaver was shot as he arrived to investigate a restraining order violation. The suspect had been released on bail earlier that month on a previous felony charge. Fellow troopers shot and killed the suspect the following morning when he was confronted and reached for a weapon.

The stories of the last law enforcement officer murdered in each year could go back over 100 years. In fact, the last officer murdered in 1922, 100 Decembers ago, was Patrolman Daniel John Conley with the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Bureau of Police. Conley was shot investigating suspicious behavior of a group of young men who were out past the 3:00 a.m. curfew on December 30th when one drew a weapon and shot Conley six times. The officer died in an alley, discovered by a fellow officer scheduled to meet him at the call box every hour.

The last officer murdered in 2022 was Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Isaiah Cordero was shot and killed while making a traffic stop in the 3900 block of Golden West Avenue in the Jurupa Valley area of California on December 29th. The suspect, Willian McKay had an extensive violent criminal history but was out on bond even after previously failing to appear in court while awaiting a prison sentence. McKay was killed in a gunfight with officers after a lengthy vehicle pursuit.