- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2018

National police memorial groups are reporting a sharp increase in the number of officers killed in the line of duty this year, as authorities in California search for an immigrant living in the U.S. illegally who is suspected of killing a small-town police officer early Wednesday.

According to data released Thursday by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 144 federal, state and local officers have died in line of duty this year, compared with 129 in 2017 — an 11.6 percent increase.

On average, the officers were 41 years old, had 12 years of service and left behind two children.

“The rising number of law enforcement officer deaths is disappointing news after a decline last year,” said Craig W. Floyd, the memorial fund’s chief executive officer. “We must never take the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers for granted.”

Overall, Texas, Florida, California and New York were the most dangerous states for law enforcers, with 11 deaths each. North Carolina lost eight officers, and South Carolina, Georgia and Indiana each lost five. Nine federal officers also died in the line of duty.

The majority of the fatalities were firearms-related, with 52 officers killed in incidents that included ambushes and shootings during routine arrests.

Traffic-related incidents took the lives of 50 officers; other law enforcement deaths involved heart attacks and drownings. Three officers were fatally beaten, according to the memorial fund.

Meanwhile, the Officer Down Memorial Page — another nonprofit that tracks law enforcement fatalities — also noted an increase in police officer deaths, reporting 147 this year as of Thursday. The memorial page includes Puerto Rico; the memorial fund does not.

Chris Cosgriff, founder of the memorial page, noted an increase in officer deaths in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey among first responders and search-and-rescue personnel who developed illnesses after the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

The tri-state area saw 14 responders die in 2018, according to the memorial page.

“The single cause of death that increased most this year is 9/11-related illness, which increased by 67 percent,” Mr. Cosgriff said in an email.

In California on Thursday, law enforcement agencies continued a statewide manhunt for a second day for an immigrant living in the U.S. illegally who is suspected in the death of on-duty police officer who was gunned down in Norman, a town of about 10,000 people some 100 miles southeast of San Francisco. Officer Ronil Singh, 33, was killed around 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson told reporters Thursday that the suspect is in the U.S. illegally and that authorities have identified him but were not disclosing his name. The sheriff said they want to be sure of the man’s name before releasing it to the public.

Authorities circulated surveillance photos of a stocky man with very short hair and wearing a hoodie at a convenience store shortly before the shooting, saying the suspect should be considered armed and dangerous. The California Highway Patrol described the man as Hispanic.

President Trump tweeted Thursday about the search for the killer: “There is right now a full scale manhunt going on in California for an illegal immigrant accused of shooting and killing a police officer during a traffic stop. Time to get tough on Border Security. Build the Wall!”

According to authorities and media reports, Officer Singh during a routine DUI investigation had pulled over a gray or silver Dodge Ram pickup truck with an extended cab that had no license plate. Less than five minutes later, he radioed that shots had been fired, and he returned fire.

Officers from different agencies found Officer Singh suffering from multiple gunshot wounds and the gunman had fled the scene. The police officer died at a local hospital.

A seven-year veteran on the Norman police force, Officer Singh was a native of Fiji, and leaves behind his wife and their 5-month-old son, authorities said.

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