In 2013, there were 25 incidents nationwide in which law enforcement officers were killed with guns that were not their own. An analysis of FBI data shows that at least thirteen of these incidents — 52 percent — were committed by individuals who were likely barred under state or federal law from either purchasing or possessing firearms.
To conduct the analysis, researchers obtained the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) database covering felonious deaths of law enforcement and updated it with additional incidents from press reports. For those incidents in which an officer was killed with a firearm that was not his or her own, the researchers identified the assailant and then examined state and federal criminal records as well as contemporaneous newspaper accounts to determine if the individual was prohibited by law from either purchasing or possessing firearms. Gun violence is a persistent threat to law enforcement — and preliminary FBI data indicates that the number of officers killed feloniously with firearms rose 77 percent since 2013.Federal Bureau of Investigation, May 11, 2015, “FBI Releases 2014 Preliminary Statistics for Law Enforcement Officers Killed in the Line of Duty,” http://1.usa.gov/1KJ2tV4
While no single policy can completely ensure officers’ safety, strong gun laws that reduce the
flow of guns to criminals can help save lives. Loopholes in our current laws make it all too easy for dangerous people who are prohibited from possessing guns to dodge a background check and buy a gun from an unlicensed seller. Expanding background checks to cover all gun sales — including those online — will protect cops. In states that require background checks for unlicensed sales of handguns, police are 48 percent less likely to be killed with handguns.Everytown for Gun Safety, State Background Check Requirements and Rates of Firearm Homicide Against Law Enforcement, January 2015, available at http://every.tw/1Aj9JAy.
SHOOTER LIKELY PROHIBITED: 13 INCIDENTS
January 26 | St. Mary Parish, Louisiana: Using a shotgun, Wilbert Thibodeaux, 48, shot and killed Sergeant Frederick Albert Riggenbach and shot and wounded Deputies Matthew Strickland and Jason Javier. The officers were responding to reports of a man with a long gun walking on a road near a casino and acting suspiciously; as officers approached him, Thibodeaux opened fire. At the time of the incident he was wanted on felony assault charges in Texas, which prohibited him from purchasing, receiving, or transporting firearms.John DeSantis, “Cop-Slay Suspect Granted ‘Get out of Jail Free’ Card,” The Houma Times, February 13, 2013, http://bit.ly/17jyHZu.
February 28 | St. Lucie County, Florida: Eriese Tisdale, 25, shot and killed Sergeant Gary Morales of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office after the officer pulled him over for speeding; when Morales approached Tisdale’s vehicle, Tisdale opened fire, killing the officer. In 2010, Tisdale was convicted of felony drug possession, which prohibited him from possessing firearms.Melissa Holsman, “Eriese Tisdale: Trial Set for End of May for Suspected Killer in Sgt. Morales Slaying,” Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, January 7, 2015, http://bit.ly/1cunqYF.
March 19 | Monument, Colorado: Evan Ebel, 28, rang the doorbell of Thomas Lynn Clements, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. As Clements opened the door, Ebel opened fire on Clements, killing him. Ebel was a member of a white supremacist prison gang that targeted Clements and other prison officials. His prior criminal record prohibited him from possessing firearms: On February 11, 2005, he was convicted of robbery, assault, and menacing in Jefferson County and was sentenced to eight years in prison. He was sentenced to an additional four years in 2007 for an assault on a correctional officer in Fremont County.Michael Roberts, “Evan Ebel’s Feces-Smeared Prison Records and Straw Purchase Controversy,” Denver Westword, March 29, 2013, http://bit.ly/1IsvBxF. Case No. 04CR3622 (Adams County, CO). Ebel was out on parole at the time of Clements’ murder, and obtained the 9mm Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun he used in the shooting from a childhood friend who straw-purchased it at a licensed gun dealer two weeks prior to the murder.Arkadi Gerney, “How a Straw Purchaser Allegedly Enabled the Colorado Prison Chief’s Murder,” ThinkProgress, March 29, 2013, http://bit.ly/1kT7IIR.
April 3 | Mingo County, West Virginia: Tennis Melvin Maynard, 37, ambushed Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum while he sat in his marked vehicle in a parking lot eating lunch, shooting and killing him. Maynard had been institutionalized two times on account of severe mental illness, and as a consequence was prohibited from possessing firearms. He was able to pass a background check and buy a firearm in December 2010 because the state had delayed in submitting his mental health records to the FBI database of prohibited buyers. Later, once his records had been submitted, the background check system blocked him from two attempts to buy additional firearms.Kate White, “Judge: Accused Killer of Mingo County Sheriff Mentally Incompetent,” The Charleston Gazette, January 15, 2015, http://bit.ly/1L0C8m8.
April 18 | Boston, Massachusetts: Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, shot and killed patrol officer Sean Collier, 27, with a handgun during the aftermath of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack, which they were also charged with perpetrating. Dzhokhar could not have legally possessed a handgun in the state of Massachusetts due to his age, and Tamerlan did not have a valid Massachusetts handgun permit. In 2011, a Maine resident legally purchased the Ruger P95 used in the crime along with multiple other handguns at a Cabela’s store in Maine, and then passed the gun to a Portland gang member in an unlicensed transfer, from whom Tsarnaev likely obtained the gun.Gavin Aronsen, “What We Know About the Tsarnaev Brothers’ Guns,” Mother Jones, April 23, 2013, http://bit.ly/1fnynZC.
June 29 | Hood County, Texas: Ricky Don McCommas, 49, shot and killed Sergeant Lance Allen McLean, 38, of the Hood County Sheriff’s Office when the officer arrived at the scene of a domestic call. Other responding officers subsequently shot and killed McCommas. At the time of the shooting, McCommas was under indictment for felony rape of a child, which prohibited him from purchasing, receiving, or transporting firearms.“Hood County Deputy Dies of Injuries Suffered in Friday Attack,” WFAA.com, January 8, 2014, http://bit.ly/1AtoJki. Case No. F47289 (Johnson County, TX)
September 9 | Ludington, Michigan: Eric John Knysz, 19, shot and killed Michigan State Trooper Paul Kenyon Butterfield, 43, after the officer pulled him over for having a loud muffler. Knysz was driving on a suspended license and had concealed firearms in his vehicle; when Butterfield approached Knysz’s truck, Knysz fired out of the driver’s side window without warning, striking and killing Butterfield. In 2008, Kynsz pled guilty to felony first-degree home invasion in Lake County and was convicted as an adult, which prohibited him from possessing firearms.John S. Hausman, “Murder Trial Starts Today in Michigan State Police Trooper Slaying in Mason County,” MLive.com, February 18, 2014, http://bit.ly/1oNbCTv. Court officials in Lake County, Michigan confirmed Knysz’s 2008 felony home invasion conviction.
September 13 | Rockwell City, Iowa: P.D. Corey A. Trott, 32, used a .223- caliber rifle to shoot and kill Officer Jamie Daniel Buenting while the officer was attempting to serve him an arrest warrant. Corey was prohibited from possessing firearms, having pled guilty to a felony charge of possession of more than one pound of marijuana after a May 2006 arrest in Seward County, Nebraska.“Details Emerge on Circumstances that Led to Fatal Standoff,” Des Monies Register, September 13, 2013, http://dmreg.co/1JG4zot. Court officials in Seward County, Nebraska confirmed Trott’s 2006 felony marijuana possession conviction.
September 20 | Indianapolis, Indiana: Steven Byrdo, 24, shot and killed patrol officer Rod. L Bradway, 41, while the officer was responding to a domestic disturbance call. Byrdo was prohibited from possessing firearms, having pled guilty in 2011 to felony charges of dealing and possessing cocaine.“Suspect in IMPD Officer’s Fatal Shooting Was Convicted Felon,” WTHR.com (Indianapolis, IN), September 20, 2013, http://bit.ly/1pWgvM3. Case No. 49G20-1003-FA-016696 (Marion County, IN).
October 2 | Upton County, Texas: Gary David Green, 50, shot and killed Deputy Sheriff Billy F. Kennedy, 37. Green was prohibited from possessing firearms: among other crimes, in 2001 he was convicted of aggravated assault with bodily injury, for which he was sentenced to ten years in prison. He was released on parole in July 2011.Jon Vanderlaan, “Deputy Killed: McCamey Residents Shocked; Few Official Details,” Odessa American, October 3, 2013, http://bit.ly/1s0qVvW. NCIC Code 13150004 (Johnson County, TX).
December 20 | San Antonio, Texas: Shawn Ruiz Puente, 32, and Jenevieve Ramos, 28, were charged with shooting and killing San Antonio Police Officer Robert Deckard, 31. At the time of the shooting, the pair were suspects in a string of fifteen armed robberies. In 2011, Puente pled guilty to a felony domestic violence charge, which prohibited him from purchasing, receiving, or transporting firearms.Mark D. Wilson, “Man Accused in Officer Shooting Faces New Charges,” My San Antonio, Dec. 11, 2013, http://bit.ly/1HcvJ5Y; “Two Face Capital Murder Indictment in Death of Officer Robert Deckard,” KENS-5 (San Antonio, TX), January 29, 2014, http://bit.ly/1IvNeN9; Adrian Delgado, “Alleged Burglars Speed through Three Counties,” Pleasanton Express, December 11, 2013, http://bit.ly/TA0le0; See also United States v. Valentine, 401 F.3d 609, 611 (5th Cir. 2005) (“[W]e conclude that a Texas state defendant who is on probation pursuant to a deferred adjudication of a felony charge remains, as a matter of law, under indictment.”).
December 20 | Cook County, Illinois: Brandon Jackson, 22, used a .44 caliber gun to shoot and kill Cook County Police Officer Cuauhtemoc Estrada, 50. Jackson was prohibited from possessing firearms due to having been convicted of felony residential burglary and theft in 2009.Ellen Jean Hirst, “Police: Shoe Prints Lead to Suspects in Officer’s Slaying,” Chicago Tribune, December 23, 2013, http://trib.in/1s9xmOa. Case No. 2008-CR-1245101 (Cook County, IL).
December 23 | Tupelo, Mississippi: Mario Edward Garnett, 40, shot and killed Sergeant Kevin Gale Stauffer, 38, during a bank robbery. In 2011, Garnett was convicted for threatening the President of the United States. The judge prohibited him from possessing firearms and ordered him to participate in a program of mental health aftercare upon his release.Susanna Capelouto, “Man Shot Dead after Bank Robbery Convicted of Threatening Obama in 2010,” CNN.com, December 29, 2013, http://cnn.it/1L0HqxP. Court documents confirmed Garnett’s 2011 felony conviction for threatening to kill and inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States. Case No. CR-10-333-001-D (United States District Court, Western District Of Oklahoma)
SHOOTER NOT PROHIBITED: 12 INCIDENTS
January 15 | Galt, California: Humphrey Kenneth Gascon, 30, shot and killed officer Kevin Andrew Tonn, 35. Gascon had been arrested for driving under the influence in Nevada but had no criminal history that would have prohibited him from possessing firearms.Kim Minugh, “Slain Galt Police Officer Served Others since High School,” Merced Sun-Star, January 17, 2013, http://bit.ly/1DqGBNO.
February 2 | Buffalo, New York: Varner Harris, 18, shot Buffalo police officers Patricia Parete and Carl Andolina on December 5, 2006, and Parete ultimately died from her injuries in February 2013. Law enforcement sources revealed that in January 2005, Harris was arrested for attempting to rob a pizza deliveryman with two other youths, one of whom had a gun. In May 2005 he was sentenced to five years’ probation as a youthful offender, but this did not prohibit him from possessing firearms.Eileen Buckley, “Varner Harris Accepts Plea Deal in Shooting of Two Police Officers,” WFBO (Buffalo, NY), September 17, 2007, http://bit.ly/1tOmDE8.
February 3-12 | Irvine, California: Former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner, 33, shot and killed public safety officer Keith Anthony Lawrence, 27, police officer Michael Crain, 34, and detective Jeremiah MacKay, 36. Dorner had no criminal history that would have prohibited him from possessing firearms.“Monica Quan, Keith Lawrence & Michael Crain: Remembering Christopher Dorner’s Alleged Victims,” Huffington Post, February 11, 2013, http://huff.to/SrWUVy.
February 26 | Santa Cruz, California: Jeremy Goulet, 25, shot and killed Sergeant Loran Lee Baker Jr. and Detective Elizabeth Chase Butler when the officers came to his home to question him in connection with a sexual assault charge from the previous week. Though Goulet had previously been convicted of invasion of privacy and unlawful possession of a weapon in 2008, those convictions did not prohibit him from possessing firearms.Jason Hoppin, “Santa Cruz Police Shooting: Suspect Jeremy Goulet Had Gun Conviction, Was Arrested Friday,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, February 26, 2013, http://bit.ly/1At7mxv.
March 7 | Dinwiddie County, Virginia: Russell E. Brown, 28, shot and killed trooper Junius Alvin Walker, 63. In 2006 Brown was convicted of misdemeanor obstruction of justice and in 2008 he was convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana, but neither of these offenses prohibited him from possessing guns.“Suspect in Trooper Slaying Has Prior Criminal History,” WRIC (Richmond, VA), March 8, 2013, http://bit.ly/1Ax9gNM.
March 19 | Eldon, Alaska: Leroy Dick, 42, shot and killed Public Safety Officer Thomas Olaf Madole, 54, while the officer was responding to a domestic disturbance call. Dick had an extensive criminal record that included no-contest pleas for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and criminal trespassing in 1995 — all misdemeanors; fourth-degree assault in 1996, for which he pled to a lesser misdemeanor charge; and drunken driving and fourth-degree escape, both misdemeanors, in 1997. But these offenses did not prohibit him from possessing firearms.Kyle Hopkins, “Slain VPSO Was Trying to Run When He Was Shot, Troopers Say,” Alaska Dispatch News, March 20, 2013, http://bit.ly/1kdHpqJ.
July 14 | Killeen, Texas: Dustin Billy Cole, 24, used an AK-47 to shoot and kill officer Robert Layden Hornsby, 32, and wound two other officers while they were responding to a disturbance call. In 2007, Cole was convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana in Oklahoma but the offense did not prohibit him from possessing guns.“Soldier Who Killed Local Police Officer Identified,” KWTX (Killeen, TX), July 16, 2013, http://bit.ly/1n22JCx.
August 5 | Charlotte County, Florida: Jaroslav Vanko, 49, shot and killed Sergeant Michael Lee Wilson, 42, as the officer responded to reports of a domestic disturbance at Vanko’s home. There is no evidence Vanko had a prior criminal history that would have prohibited him from possessing firearms.“Charlotte Co. Deputy, Father of 3, Fatally Shot,” WBBH, August 5, 2013, http://bit.ly/1hArwjr.
August 28 | Baltimore County, Maryland: Tevon Smith, 25, shot and killed police officer Jason Lee Schneider, 36, with a .22 caliber handgun. In 2011 Smith was arrested on two separate occasions for second-degree assault and possession of a controlled substance, but authorities declined to prosecute either charge.Howard Koplowitz, “Baltimore County Police Officer Jason Schneider Killed by Suspect Tevon Smith in Catonsville Shooting,” International Business Times, August 29, 2013, http://bit.ly/1w5O8cu. There is no evidence he was prohibited from possessing firearms.
September 1 | Draper, Utah: Timothy Troy Walker, 34, shot and killed Sergeant Derek Ray Johnson, 32. Johnson had stopped to check a vehicle that appeared to be disabled or involved in an accident. As he rolled down the window of his patrol car to speak with one of the occupants of the vehicle, Walker shot and killed him.Paul Foy, “Timothy T. Walker, Utah Shooting Suspect, Owed Child Support: Records,” Huffington Post, September 3, 2013, http://huff.to/1kKFgIf. There is no evidence Walker had a criminal history that would have prohibited him from possessing firearms.
November 4 | Oregon City, Oregon: Lawrence Cambra, 88, shot and killed Officer Robert Allen Libke, 41. Cambra’s girlfriend obtained a restraining order against him in October 2012, which prohibited him from possessing firearms, but the order was dismissed on November 5, 2012.“Reserve Police Officer Dies after Shooting in Oregon City,” KATU, November 4, 2013, http://bit.ly/1oNiaQs.
December 19 | Burleson County, Texas: Henry Magee, 28, shot and killed Sergeant Fredrich Adam Sowders, 31, while Sowders was attempting to serve him a warrant. Magee had four guns in his home, all of them legally owned.Radley Balko, “Some Justice in Texas: The Raid on Henry Magee,” Washington Post, February 10, 2014, http://t/1tGFZwC.