Non-Notable Deaths for 2014
This is the time of year people check the “notable deaths” of the last twelve months -- as determined by the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, or the L.A. Times.
The entertainment, sports, and fashion industries are more heavily represented this year than usual, even in the Grey Lady, with politicians and journalists running close behind. Also predictable: the average age of the celebrated dead seems to be inching up. It must be in the mid-80s, with several centenarians among them.
There are the usual surprises. Weren’t Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, Sid Caesar, Pete Seeger, Lauren Bacall, and James Brady already dead? (Note to self: Google Betty Ford, Lady Bird Johnson, George Burns, and Francisco Franco.)
There are the usual odd pairings -- Jeb McGruder and his inquisitor Howard Baker, still looking boyish at 88 -- and the usual mix of the talented, the charismatic, and the driven.
Most of us, of course, will be remembered and mourned only by family and friends, and maybe by some colleagues, clients, or customers. Any obituary we receive, a relative will have paid for.
But there are some individuals whose deaths made headlines in their own towns, and, very occasionally, nationwide. These men then disappeared into the anonymity from which they had briefly emerged. None made the Times’ D list.
They are the police officers killed in the line of duty. In a year in which Michael Brown and Eric Garner were hailed as martyrs, and St. Trayvon was still worshipped, these cops deserve to be remembered, and honored -- particularly the nearly 40% of the 47 police officers gunned down in 2014 who were shot by African-American males.
The European-American and Hispanic killers were the usual mix: thugs, gang-bangers, including illegals, psychotics, and psychopaths. At least one was the now familiar type who watched movies and played video games all day in his room in his parents’ house. Two were motivated by anti-government sentiments, and so received nation-wide publicity. “Patriots” Jerad and Amanda Miller drove across the country to support Cliven Bundy, but their rants disturbed other demonstrators, and they were asked to leave Bundy’s property. They then shot Las Vegas Police officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo point-blank as the two men were eating lunch in a restaurant. Survivalist and Serbian war re-enactor Eric Frein ambushed Pennsylvania State Trooper Byron Dickson as he walked out the front door of the State Police barracks in Blooming Grove.
In one case, an African-American officer, Kevin Jordan, was killed by a white man, Michael Bowman, a veteran, as Jordan struggled to handcuff Bowman’s girlfriend after the pair had been ejected from a Waffle House in Griffin, Georgia for disorderly conduct.
A second African-American officer was killed, Navy Master at Arms Mark Mayo, a security officer on board the USS Mahan. His murderer was also an African American, Jeffrey Tyrone Savage. Mayo was a victim of feminism. Savage overpowered a female guard and used her weapon to kill Mayo.
Then there was the case of Officer Charles Dinwiddie, shot by Marvin Louis Guy. Dinwiddie was a member of a SWAT team that was breaking into Guy’s home at 5:30 a.m. to serve a warrant. No drugs were found. Guy, defending his home and family from intruders, he believed, is not the type of African-American male of any interest to the media, though he is now facing the death penalty. As libertarians have pointed out, SWAT units were not originally established to conduct drug raids, especially ones based on the dubious tip of one informant.
An officer can never be sure that a routine traffic stop will be routine if the driver is a black male -- even when there are passengers in the car, and even when the passengers are his children.
Watch this chilling video from an Oregon state trooper’s dash cam last fall.
Earlier this month, a Houston police officer was fired at when he attempted to pull over a driver for an illegal turn. Emilio Solis sped off. He was wanted for drug charges and robberies in California. After crashing his vehicle, Solis emerged from the car with one hand up, as if he were surrendering. He then began firing at the officer, Andra Gibson, who returned the fire and killed him.
Some of the cop-killers were on parole, or, like Solis, had warrants for felonies.
When Rochester Police Officer Daryl Pierson went up to the window of car he’d pulled over for a traffic violation on September 3rd, the driver, Thomas Johnson, shot him in the neck. Johnson was out on parole, having served the minimum required for a 3-year sentence for armed robbery. He’d already violated his parole, and had been sent back to prison, but for less than a year. Pierson was thirty-two years old, and left behind a wife and two children, one four months old, the other in kindergarten.
In other cases, the killers didn’t have a record, but wanted to avoid an arrest.
Allen Bares, an off-duty deputy sheriff in Vermillion Parish, Louisiana, was mowing his lawn late in the afternoon on June 24th when he saw two young black males acting suspiciously. They’d driven a stolen Lexus into a ditch. Bares phoned in a report, then went up to the men and identified himself as a police officer. He was shot several times, according to a neighbor, and “the young fellows” drove off in his truck. Quintylan Richards and Baylon Taylor were arrested soon after the killing.
Another officer killed while questioning an individual about suspicious activity was Alexander Thalmann of New Bern, North Carolina. He and his partner approached Bryan Stallings on March 28 at 11:45 p.m. The suspect ran away from the police, pulled out a handgun, and fired on the two officers. Thalmann, 22, a former Marine who had served only seven months with the police department, was struck in the head. He left behind his mother, two sisters, and a brother.
The aftermath of the shooting was revealing. Like Barrack Obama addressing the nation after the Fort Hood massacre, the mayor of New Bern, the appropriately named Dana Outlaw, had more pressing things on his mind than the killing of one of his officers. In a Facebook post after the killing, he expatiated on the good weather before mentioning Thalmann. He then cancelled a memorial service for the officer and attended the funeral of Stallings. The killer had a long criminal record that included resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, larceny, possession of drugs, and lewd and lascivious conduct with a girl under sixteen.
Also typical was the coverage in the local media, concluding with a long defense of Stallings from a friend and witness.
Unlike Bares and Thalmann, Perry Renn knew he was dealing with a dangerous suspect. On July 5th, he responded to a 911 call that a man was discharging a semi-automatic rifle at an intersection in Indianapolis. As Renn and his partner approached the man, he began firing at them, hitting Renn three times.
The coverage was even more egregious than in the New Bern paper. An article in the Indy Star brimmed with sympathy for the killer, Major Davis, Jr., a violent criminal with a long arrest record. Family members placed the blame squarely on the police.
Renn, 51, a former paratrooper with 82nd Airborne, joined the Indianapolis Metropolitan PD after ten years in the Army. He served 21 years as a patrol officer, and left behind his wife, parents, sister, and seven nieces and nephews.
The nation was riveted by the cold-blooded execution of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on December 20th, following weeks of incendiary comments from the President on up. But Ramos and Liu were not the first officers executed in 2014 by African Americans.
Lawrence Campbell entered a Walgreens in Jersey City on July 13th, stabbed the security guard and stole his gun. Campbell didn’t attempt to rob the store. Instead he told witnesses, “Watch the TV news later. I’m gonna be famous.”
When the first patrol car pulled up after the 911 call, Campbell walked up to the vehicle and fired several rounds with the semi-automatic 9mm pistol. Rookie officer Melvin Santiago was hit in the head as he began to exit the car.
“He was like an angel to me,” Santiago’s stepfather said. “He always had a smile, never any trouble, ever,” he said. “How do I deal with him gone?” Santiago, who scored 98 out of 100 on the police entrance exam, had been enthusiastic about working in the West District, known as the “Wild, Wild West” to Jersey City cops.
Gary, Indiana, 85% African-American, is not tame either. Responding to a domestic violence call, Officer Jeffrey Westerfield was shot in the head on July 6 as he sat in his patrol car with the lights on and engine running. His assassin, Carl LeEllis Blount, had a long criminal record, including assaulting a girlfriend and resisting arrest. Westerfield was killed on his 47th birthday. He was the father of four daughters, and was about to remarry.
Officer Jair Cabrera was executed by a member of the Phoenix East Side Bloods, Elijah Arthur, when he was lured into making a traffic stop at 3:00 a.m. on May 24th.
Another officer may have been the victim of the still-popular knockout game.
Robert White, a 45-year-old El Paso County constable, was working as a security guard at a Halloween event on October 31st, when he was punched in the head by a nineteen-year-old Fort Bliss soldier, Devon Huerta-Person. Bleeding profusely, White was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Though the media chose to describe the incident as a fight, no witnesses were quoted corroborating this, and in Huerta-Person’s mugshot there were no visible injuries. A graduate of UT-El Paso, White was a prominent figure in the community, serving for 17 years as a PE coach at a local elementary school and starting patrol units at other schools. The principal called him “a phenomenal man. He always worked to ensure our kids were safe. He was super pro-active.” White left behind four children. His autopsy showed evidence of heart disease, but the punch was “a contributing factor” in his death.
Another officer killed by a black man while not on active duty was 32-year-old Officer Justin Winebrenner, a nine-year veteran of the Akron Police Department. He happened to be in a bar on November 16th when an unruly patron was asked by the bouncer to leave. The man, convicted felon Kenan Ivery, returned with a gun and shot Winebrenner in the chest when the officer approached him and tried to defuse the situation. Ivery also felled the bouncer and two others. A graduate of University of Akron, Winebrenner left behind a four-year-old daughter.
Three other officers have been killed -- so far -- since the execution of Ramos and Liu.
Officer Charlie Kondek, a popular Tarpon Springs, Florida officer, the father of six and a seventeen-year veteran of the force, was killed at about 2 a.m. on December 21st when he responded to a call about a man blasting music from his car and pounding on doors in a condo complex. Marco Antonio Perilla, wanted on a parole violation, shot Kondek in the neck, then ran over his body with his car.
The last link, along with several earlier ones, is to the New York Daily News. Local papers and news channels are sometimes reticent to display photos of the killers when they are not white males. The DN, its rival the New York Post, and interestingly, the Daily Mail in the UK, all reviled by card-carrying intellectuals, often feature black-on-white crime stories that are of no interest to papers or news shows outside the cities where the killings occurred.
As we wish friends and relatives a happy and healthy new year, let’s remember for a moment the police officers who were wished this, for the final time, twelve months ago. And let’s spare a thought as well for all those who man the thin blue line, behind which we live in comparative security and comfort, and remind ourselves that they interact with a hugely disproportionate number of young African-American males.
All 115 law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in 2014 are commemorated on the Officer Down Memorial Page.