- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A white man with a history of run-ins with law enforcement was suspected in the fatal shootings of two Iowa police officers in separate ambushes Wednesday — firing as many as 30 rounds at one of the officers in his patrol car, authorities said.

Scott Michael Greene, 46, was suspected of opening fire on the officers in what were described as unprovoked attacks. Investigators were working to determine a motive.

Urbandale Police Chief Ross McCarty confirmed that as recently as two weeks ago, Mr. Greene was escorted out of a high school football game and quarreled with officers after he caused a disturbance by displaying a Confederate flag during the national anthem.

Mr. Greene spent several hours on the run after the morning shootings before he flagged down a state Department of Natural Resources employee in a rural area west of Des Moines and surrendered.

The slain officers were identified as Sgt. Anthony Beminio, an 11-year veteran of the Des Moines Police Department, and Officer Justin Martin, who joined the Urbandale Police Department a year ago.

Urbandale police initially got a call about shots fired just after 1 a.m. and found 24-year-old Officer Martin dead in his patrol car. Police flooded the area looking for the gunman. Less than 30 minutes later and just 2 miles from the site of the first shooting, Sgt. Beminio was found shot.

Chief McCarty said 15 to 30 bullets were fired into the side of Officer Martin’s car.

“I wouldn’t call it a confrontation,” the chief said. “I don’t think he may have ever been aware there was a gunman next to him.”

Fatal shootings of law enforcement officers are on the rise. Gunmen targeting police killed a total of eight officers in high-profile attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this summer.

While racial tensions are believed to have played a role in the motivations of the black gunmen in those two attacks, authorities noted that both of the slain Iowa officers and the suspected gunman are white.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 52 officers have been killed by gunfire this year — a 58 percent increase over the same time last year. At least 16 officers appear to have been victims of ambushes, said memorial fund President Craig W. Floyd.

“All of these tragedies remind us in very stark terms that America’s law enforcement professionals are facing clear and growing dangers on our behalf,” Mr. Floyd said.

In Washington, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch condemned the Iowa attacks.

“I know that while we do not yet know what led the perpetrator to commit these awful crimes, many will nevertheless be tempted to read a message or motive into this assault,” Ms. Lynch said. “But let me be clear: There is no message in murder. Violence creates nothing; it only destroys.”

In announcing Mr. Greene’s arrest, Des Moines Police Department spokesman Sgt. Paul Parizek said the gun used in the shootings had not been recovered but that authorities were working to obtain search warrants.

Authorities did not disclose how Mr. Greene was identified as a suspect. Sgt. Parizek said Mr. Greene was being treated at a hospital for an unspecified ailment and that he had not been officially charged in connection with the shootings.

While Mr. Greene was on the run, police described the Urbandale man as armed and dangerous and urged members of the public not to approach if they encountered him.

Court records indicate that Mr. Greene has a criminal history and has had encounters with law enforcement. He was removed from an Urbandale High School football game after he unfurled a Confederate flag in front of a group of black spectators, said Chief McCarty.

In a video taken after his removal from the game and posted to YouTube, Mr. Greene complained to officers that his removal was a violation of his constitutional rights. He also complained about being hit by one of the spectators and wanting to file a police report.

The Des Moines Register reported that Mr. Greene was charged with a simple misdemeanor count of interference with official acts in 2014 when he resisted a pat-down by an officer. An Urbandale officer described him as hostile and combative during the encounter. Two days later, Mr. Greene was arrested and charged with first-degree harassment after he yelled a racial slur and threatened to kill a man in the parking lot of an apartment complex.

Mr. Greene pleaded guilty in that case and was put on probation for a year. Court records show he completed a substance abuse and psychological evaluation.

Mr. Greene was in court Tuesday for another incident stemming from an altercation with his 66-year-old mother. Court records indicate he accused his mother of scratching and hitting his face during an argument.

The Urbandale Police Department, which has about 50 officers, said Officer Martin’s death is believed to be the department’s first fatal shooting. The Des Moines Police Department, which has about 375 sworn officers, lost two officers earlier this year when their vehicle was struck head-on by a drunken driver.

“I don’t even know where to begin, how bad this year is,” Sgt. Parizek said after he was asked by a reporter how officers were coping with the latest tragedy. “This is what we do. We come in, day in, day out. We go out there, and we provide the same level of service regardless of what’s going on in our personal or professional lives.”

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