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June 24, 2016 1

Law Enforcement: Standing in the Line of Fire

The recent attack on the les­bian, gay, bisex­ual and trans­gen­der (LGBT) com­mu­nity in Orlando that left 49 dead and more than 50 wounded is yet another exam­ple of law enforce­ment stand­ing in the line of fire in the fight against domes­tic extremism.

From 2009 to the present, at least 64 mem­bers of law enforce­ment have been shot by domes­tic extremists–including anti-government extrem­ists, white suprema­cists, domes­tic Mus­lim extrem­ists and oth­ers. Eigh­teen of those shoot­ings were fatal. Addi­tional offi­cers might have lost their lives had they not been wear­ing pro­tec­tive vests or, as in the case of the Orlando attack, a Kevlar helmet.

Since Jan­u­ary 2009, ADL has tracked 68 sep­a­rate inci­dents (includ­ing seven so far this year) in which shots have been fired between domes­tic extrem­ists and law enforce­ment in the United States. These inci­dents include sit­u­a­tions in which shots were exchanged between police and extrem­ists (shootouts), sit­u­a­tions in which extrem­ists have fired at police but police sub­dued the extrem­ists with­out hav­ing to return fire, and sit­u­a­tions in which offi­cers had to use their firearms to pro­tect them­selves against extremists.graph of targets of extremists

The moti­va­tions that led the extrem­ists to vio­lence dur­ing these encoun­ters vary. Many were sim­ply try­ing to escape after police offi­cers caught them engaged in crim­i­nal behav­ior unre­lated to their extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy. For oth­ers the encounter with police became the cat­a­lyst for vio­lent ide­o­log­i­cal action. In some cases, vio­lence esca­lated to a “last stand” sit­u­a­tion in which the extremist(s) had to have known their actions would likely result in their own deaths. The most dis­turb­ing inci­dents, how­ever, are those (like the Orlando attack) in which the encounter occurred as police responded to and con­fronted extrem­ists who were in the midst of a directed and planned attack.

Fif­teen (22%) of the 68 extrem­ist encoun­ters with law enforce­ment were the result of direct attacks by the extrem­ists. In other words, these encoun­ters started purely due to the extremist’s ide­ol­ogy. In six of those cases, the extremist(s) con­ducted planned attacks on civilians–including the LGBT com­mu­nity in Florida, a Sikh tem­ple in Wis­con­sin, a Planned Par­ent­hood clinic in Col­orado, and employ­ees of the Trans­porta­tion Secu­rity Admin­is­tra­tion at the Los Ange­les air­port. In seven cases, the ini­tial attack was directed at law enforce­ment, and resulted in the assas­si­na­tions of three offi­cers. In Jan­u­ary of this year, an addi­tional offi­cer mirac­u­lously sur­vived an assas­si­na­tion attempt in Philadel­phia. In the remain­ing two cases, extrem­ists attacked mem­bers of the U.S. military.

Since 2009, offi­cers have encoun­tered domes­tic extrem­ists in 28 dif­fer­ent states. Sev­eral states have expe­ri­enced mul­ti­ple inci­dents. Texas law enforce­ment has endured 10 of the 68 encoun­ters (nearly 15%). In four of the Texas cases, the extremist(s) were linked to the Aryan Broth­er­hood of Texas or the Aryan Cir­cle, demon­strat­ing the state’s par­tic­u­lar prob­lem with large white suprema­cist prison gangs. In fact, mem­bers of racist prison gangs were involved in three of the seven shoot­ing inci­dents which have already occurred this year—including encoun­ters in Texas, Alabama and Colorado.

Florida has with­stood the sec­ond high­est num­ber of inci­dents, reach­ing eight encoun­ters with the addi­tion of the Orlando attack. Col­orado offi­cials have faced five inci­dents, and suf­fered through the loss of Col­orado Springs Offi­cer Gar­rett Swasey. Swasey, the most recent law enforce­ment casu­alty at the hand of domes­tic extrem­ists, died in the line of duty dur­ing a mass shoot­ing by an anti-abortion extrem­ist in Novem­ber 2015 at a Planned Par­ent­hood clinic.

Unfor­tu­nately ide­o­log­i­cal extrem­ists con­tinue to add to the dan­gers faced by law enforce­ment. An untold num­ber of lives were saved due to the efforts of the law enforce­ment offi­cers who con­fronted the 76 extrem­ists involved in these 68 inci­dents. These offi­cers put them­selves into dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions in order to pro­tect and serve the com­mu­ni­ties in which they live.


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April 22, 2013 0

Slain Officer Tragic Reminder Of Extremist Dangers To Law Enforcement

Offi­cer Sean Collier

The hunt for sus­pected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsar­naev gripped the nation on April 19 as author­i­ties shut vir­tu­ally the entire city down in their hunt for the deadly fugitive.

Some­what side­lined by the man­hunt was the fatal encounter that touched off the mas­sive search, the shock­ing alleged mur­der by Dzhokhar and Tamer­lan Tsar­naev of a uni­ver­sity police offi­cer the night before.  Around 10:30pm on April 18, police received a call about a con­ve­nience store rob­bery near the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (MIT) in Cam­bridge (the rob­bery later turned out to be uncon­nected).  Shortly there­after, 26-year-old MIT police offi­cer Sean Col­lier, report­edly encoun­tered the two broth­ers, who shot him mul­ti­ple times while he was still in his cruiser, mor­tally wound­ing him.

The broth­ers allegedly car­jacked a Mer­cedes shortly there­after.  Police located the stolen vehi­cle in Water­town, but when the first offi­cer approached the car, the broth­ers allegedly jumped out and opened fire.  As addi­tional offi­cers arrived, the sus­pects allegedly threw explo­sive devices at the offi­cers.  MBTA Tran­sit Police Offi­cer Richard Don­ahue, Jr., 33, received crit­i­cal gun­shot injuries dur­ing this chase, though he is now in sta­ble con­di­tion receiv­ing hos­pi­tal care.  Fif­teen other offi­cers were injured dur­ing the shootout.  Tarmer­lan Tsamaev died in this sec­ond encounter after receiv­ing mul­ti­ple injuries, includ­ing being run over by his own brother dri­ving a vehicle.

The tragic death of Offi­cer Col­lier and the near fatal shoot­ing of Offi­cer Don­ahue high­light the extent to which police offi­cers risk their own lives and wel­fare to pro­tect Amer­i­cans from dan­ger­ous extrem­ists.  How­ever, most Amer­i­cans are not aware how often the nation’s police offi­cers must place them­selves in the line of fire to oppose dan­ger­ous extremists.

Accord­ing to ADL records, Offi­cer Col­lier was actu­ally the 30th police offi­cer to die in the United States at the hands of domes­tic extrem­ists (of all vari­eties) since 2001.  In a num­ber of those instances, the offi­cers, like Col­lier, were killed while encoun­ter­ing a des­per­ate extrem­ist fugi­tive try­ing to evade cap­ture for a pre­vi­ous act.

Just since 2009, 33 shootouts (includ­ing the Water­town event) have taken place between law enforce­ment offi­cers and domes­tic extremists—including right-wing anti-government extrem­ists, white suprema­cists, domes­tic Mus­lim extrem­ists and oth­ers.  In those vio­lent encoun­ters, extrem­ists have shot 34 police offi­cers, 11 fatally.  In at least four of those inci­dents, it was prob­a­bly only body armor that saved the offi­cers’ lives.  Almost 25% of these shootouts involved extrem­ists who were fugi­tives or oth­er­wise resist­ing arrest.

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