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Their lives have always mattered

Published January 02. 2017 02:45PM

Last Friday, trooper Landon Weaver was shot and killed in Huntingdon County when he and another trooper responded to a domestic disturbance at a rural home in Juniata Township.

A trooper for just a year, Weaver, 23, had gone to the home to investigate a protective order violation when he was shot by a man who had been released on bail on a felony charge earlier in the month.

Weaver was the last law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty in 2016, a year in which law enforcement fatalities grew by 10 percent over the previous year, hitting a five-year high nationwide.

Five other families were left grieving over the Christmas holiday for lost family members who died in December.

Six days before Christmas, Lisa Mauldin, a corrections officer in Arkansas, was killed when she and another officer were attacked by an inmate inside the county detention center's kitchen. Other officers were able to subdue the inmate who was serving a 15- to 20-year sentence for aggravated robbery and domestic assault.

In Georgia, police officer Nicholas Ryan Smarr and public safety officer Jody Carl Smith, were shot and killed while responding to a domestic violence incident; Deputy Sheriff Ryan Thomas was killed in a single-vehicle crash while responding to a call for service when his patrol car in Valencia County, New Mexico; and New Jersey Trooper Frankie Lamar Williams, who had served with the State Police for only 11 months, was killed responding to a call when another vehicle crossed the highway and collided with his patrol car.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page website, 140 officers lost their lives in the line of duty during 2016, a six-percent increase. Gunfire deaths increased by a whopping 59 percent while auto-related deaths were up 17 percent.

It was the first time that more officers were killed by firearms than by automobile accidents. Those shooting deaths included 21 deaths in ambush-style shootings, the highest total in more than two decades, according to The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

After issuing the report last week, NLEOMF President and CEO Craig Floyd said many of us take for granted the service and sacrifice of our law enforcement professionals and must never forget the 900,000 men and women who risk their lives every day for our safety and protection.

Regarding the ambush killings and targeting of law enforcement officers, Floyd said it's unacceptable in a humane society when officers are killed simply because of the uniform they wear and the job they do. Due to the spike in ambush-style killings, he said officers are aware that an attack could come at any time from any direction.

Texas had the highest number of law enforcement fatalities with 17, followed by California with 10, Louisiana with nine, Georgia with eight and Michigan with six.

Pennsylvania lost four officers last year, trooper Weaver being the latest. On Nov. 10, officer Scott Leslie Bashioum of the Canonsburg Borough Police Department was killed by gunfire; on Sept. 26, Corrections Officer David M. Weaver was killed in a fall; and on July 18, Correctional Officer Kristopher D. Moules was killed in an assault at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.

Also killed were two police dogs: K-9 Totti of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, died on July 7 of heat exhaustion; and K-9 Aren of the Port Authority of Allegheny County Police Department, died from a stabbing last January.

The earliest law enforcement death on record in this country occurred in Albany County, New York, when Constable Darius Quimby was killed on Jan. 3, 1791. The earliest death of a federal officer listed is U.S. Marshal Robert Forsyth, who was killed on Jan. 11, 1794. The earliest death of a female officer listed is New York State Department of Correctional Services head attendant Nellie Wicks, who was killed on Sept. 27, 1906.

Whether its Darius Quimby, killed while this nation was in its infancy or Trooper Landon Weaver, killed in the line of duty just last Friday, any law enforcement death leaves a deep impact on civil society.

A constable's life mattered 225 years ago when we were a young nation, just as much as the blue lives that matter today during our current timeline in history.

By JIM ZBICK | tneditor@tnonline.com

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