- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

NORFOLK A man fatally shot a police officer and then was killed by other officers who returned fire early yesterday outside a bar, police said.
Officer Sheila Herring-Patrick, 39, of Virginia Beach was shot once in the abdomen and once in each leg, in areas not protected by her bullet-proof vest, police spokesman Chris Amos said. She died at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital about an hour later.
Officer Herring-Patrick is believed to be the first female police officer killed in the United States this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Of the 147 law enforcement officers nationwide killed on duty last year, 14 were women, according to statistics kept by the nonprofit organization in the District.
The shootings happened at about 1:45 a.m., when four officers responded to a call that someone had been shot at Champion's Sports Bar on Brambleton Avenue, Mr. Amos said.
The officers found several people outside the bar and separated them for questioning, Mr. Amos said.
"At some point, the suspect produces a gun and shoots our officer," Mr. Amos said. "The other three officers returned fire and killed the suspect."
Authorities were trying to identify the gunman. Police fired several rounds, Mr. Amos said.
"We're at the evidence-gathering stage," Mr. Amos said. "Once all that's been compiled, then they will be able to sit down and determine what each individual did."
Officers found a man inside the bar who had been shot before the shootings outside. He was taken to Sentara Norfolk General with a gunshot wound to the leg that was not considered life-threatening, Mr. Amos said. Police think he was shot by the man who killed the officer but were still investigating, he said.
"We still aren't sure of the motive of any of this, really," Mr. Amos said.
No one immediately returned telephone messages seeking comment that were left for Champion's.
Officer Herring-Patrick was hired by the Norfolk police department in February 2002, graduated from the Norfolk police academy last August and was put on patrol, Mr. Amos said. Before that, she had worked as a police officer in Detroit and at the Norfolk International Airport, he said. He did not know how long she had held those jobs.
"From what I understand, she was a really good officer," Mr. Amos said. "It seems like the good ones are called upon to die, to pay that price."
He said she had some family outside the area but he declined to be specific or to release other details about her personal life.
Officer Herring-Patrick is the 36th Norfolk police officer, and the first female officer in the city, to be killed on duty since 1904, according to police department records.
The last death was on Sept. 28, 2001. James B. Gilbert, 28, of Virginia Beach died at a hospital after he was shot in the head while investigating a report of a man threatening to commit suicide. The man was killed when he fired at police and a gunbattle ensued.
"It's the nature of the beast," Mr. Amos said. "You know it can happen, but when it does, you're never prepared for it."
About 16,000 law enforcement officers nationwide have been killed on duty since 1792, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks such deaths. Of those, 188 were women, including Officer Herring-Patrick, with the first death occurring in 1916.
"That's not a big number when compared to 16,000, but what we're seeing is more and more female officers are dying each year because there are more and more female officers on assignment," said fund Chairman Craig W. Floyd. "As a result, they are facing the same level of risk as their male counterparts."
All but nine of the women died in 1970 or later. Mr. Floyd noted that before the 1970s, female police officers often were limited to jobs such as jail matron.
The 14 female officer deaths in 2002 tied a record set in 1998, Mr. Floyd said.
Of the 867,000 law enforcement officers nationwide, about 113,000 are women, he said.
Officer Herring-Patrick was one of 72 women among the Norfolk department's 746 officers, Mr. Amos said.
Officer Herring-Patrick is the fourth female officer to die in Virginia, which has had 312 total officer deaths, and the first to be fatally shot, according to the fund.
Fairfax County Officer Karen Jean Bassford died in an automobile accident on July 27, 1977, while responding to a call. Virginia State Police Trooper Jacqueline Vernon was struck by a bus after stopping a motorist on Aug. 16, 1988, on the Interstate 95 Springfield interchange. State Trooper Jessica Jean Cheney was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic around an accident scene in Stafford County on Jan. 17, 1998.


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