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Line of Duty Deaths

Houston officer shot and killed; suspect sought

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Sgt. Sean Rios was a 25-year veteran of the department – Duty Death: Sean Rios – [Houston, Texas] End of Service: 11/09/2020

November 10, 2020 – Credit: By Julian Gill and Nicole Hensley for the Houston Chronicle

HOUSTON, Texas — Houston police Sgt. Sean Rios on Monday was driving to his regular 2 p.m. shift at George Bush Intercontinental Airport when minutes before he was to clock in, the 25-year veteran staggered into a motel lobby along the North Freeway with a gunshot wound.

Rios, a 47-year-old father of four, became the fourth Houston peace officer killed in the line of duty this year following a gun battle with a suspect who remains at large.

His death capped off a violent day across the Houston-area that saw four other killings in a five-hour stretch.

“A lot of things are happening on our streets,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a news conference at the shooting scene. “There’s a lot of people who are on edge. So I just want people to pray for our city and to … bring emotions down and bring the violence down. Because this is a tragic case, and it’s just been a very rough year in our city.”

Rios had been a sergeant for at least a decade, said Houston Police Officers Union Vice President Doug Griffith, who knew Rios from their days in the Southeast Patrol Division.

Griffith described him as fun-loving and laid-back. He loved spending time with his family. His kids’ ages range from 9 to 17. Two of his cousins also are Houston police detectives.

“It’s very uncharacteristic for him to ever be involved in anything off duty,” Griffith said.

Griffith added that Rios transferred posts about two months ago from Hobby Airport to George Bush Airport.

Details about what led up to the shooting were still murky Monday evening, according to Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.

Rios was driving his personal vehicle and not in uniform at the time, police officials said.

Around 1:30 p.m., police started receiving calls about multiple shots fired near the Interstate 45 northbound frontage road at Stuebner Airline. There, Acevedo said Rios was wounded in a “gun battle” with the shooter, who was driving a blue 4-door Mercedes Benz.

Rios then ran about 75 yards to the lobby of the Taj Inn & Suites, where he collapsed and was pronounced dead, Acevedo said.

Ghasan Azar heard the gunfire while on his way to check the mail at his business off the North Freeway. As he walked along the frontage road, he saw the officer appearing to run.

“I saw the way he was running. He was not running right,” Azar said.

He then saw the officer stagger into the motel lobby and collapse.

Investigators have located the suspect’s blue Mercedes — captured on surveillance footage — but Acevedo declined to give a location. He said police also identified another person of interest who accompanied the shooter in a black pickup but did not give a description.

Police do not yet know whether an earlier dispute sparked the violent encounter. Rios was outside of his vehicle when the shots rang out, Acevedo said. The sergeant could not relay information about his assailants before he died, he said.

Police are checking 911 calls around the time of the shooting and examining Rios’ cellphone for any further evidence.

Acevedo said he did not know whether the suspect was shot. During a news conference, Acevedo addressed the shooter directly.

“We’ve got leads that I’m not going to talk about,” Acevedo said. “But we have leads and we are going to catch you.”

The sergeant’s death followed four killings in a five-hour stretch from Houston’s Chinatown to Montrose and a few blocks west of Jack Yates High School.

Officers were dispatched first to a fatal shooting along Montrose Boulevard, near Colquitt Street, around 6:45 a.m., and minutes later, another shooting in an Alief ISD elementary school parking lot.

A third death was reported around 8 a.m. when a man was stabbed to death outside a group home in the 5100 block of Yellowstone Boulevard. By noon, a fourth man was killed in the 2700 block of Alabama Street in Third Ward.

The killing also comes less than a month after the shooting deaths of two other Houston peace officers: Lemuel Bruce and Harold Preston. Bruce, an arson investigator with the Houston Fire Department, was shot and killed Oct. 16 by arson suspect Joshua De La Cerda in Houston’s Timbergrove neighborhood, where Bruce had been investigating a recent string of fires. De La Cerda died by suicide, authorities said.

Preston, a 41-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, was killed Oct. 20 while responding to a domestic dispute at an apartment complex on Holly Hall, about half a mile south of the Medical Center. Police say Elmer Manzano shot Preston and another officer, Courtney Waller, as they responded to a dispute between Manzano and his wife at the apartment.

Earlier this year, on May 2, Houston Police Officer Jason Knox died in an early-morning helicopter crash while responding to reports of bodies in the bayou at Imperial Valley near Benmar. The aircraft careened into the apartment clubhouse.

“It’s truly sad we have to bury another one of our brothers,” Griffith said.

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Line of Duty Deaths

NC police officer killed in shootout

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Officer Tyler Herndon was responding to a break-in, police said

Duty Death: Tyler Herndon – [Gaston County, North Carolina]

End of Service: 12/11/2020

By Suzie Ziegler  for Police 1 – Dec 11, 2020

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — A North Carolina police officer was killed early Friday during a confrontation with an armed suspect, police said. 

Mount Holly Police identified the deceased as 25-year-old Officer Tyler Herndon. 

“It is with heavy hearts that we share that our brother Officer Tyler Herndon passed away as a result of injuries sustained from this morning’s shooting,” the agency wrote in a Facebook post

According to police, officers were responding to a break-in in progress around 3:30 a.m. Officers and an armed suspect exchanged gunfire, killing Herndon and wounding the suspect. 

Police say 24-year-old Joshua Funk has been charged with murder. No other officers were injured in the incident. Three officers are on routine administrative leave as the investigation continues, the agency said. 

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Line of Duty Deaths

Ill. cop suffers fatal medical emergency on duty

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Officer Adam Zieminski was described as a “highly decorated officer who proudly served (the) community for 22 years”

Duty Death: Adam Zieminski – [Calumet City, Illinois]

End of Service: 12/07/2020

By: Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas for the Chicago Tribune – Dec 8, 2020

CALUMET CITY, Ill. — A 22-year veteran of the Calumet City police department died on duty early Monday, after apparently suffering a medical emergency, city officials said.

Officer Adam Zieminski had been transporting a detainee to the Cook County courthouse in Markham when he suffered an unspecified medical emergency, according to a joint statement from Calumet City’s mayor and police chief. When it was clear Zieminski was suffering some type of medical issue, the detainee was able to get the attention of other nearby law enforcement officers. They raced to the officer but weren’t able to revive him.

Zieminski, 49, was taken to Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest and pronounced dead at 12:48 a.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office, which had scheduled an autopsy for Monday to determine his cause of death.

“Calumet City Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush and Police Chief Christopher Fletcher, together with the city administration and the entire Calumet City Police Department, are deeply saddened that Police Officer Adam Zieminski died while on duty early this morning,” the statement read.

It also said Zieminski was a “highly decorated officer who proudly served (the) community for 22 years.”

The officials extended their sympathy and condolences to Zieminski’s family, friends and colleagues.

“We were all fortunate to have had him in our lives,” the news release said.

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Line of Duty Deaths

W.Va. LEO shot in the line of duty dies

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Officer Cassie Johnson died Thursday after she was taken off life support, officials said

Duty Death: Cassie Johnson – [Charleston, West Virginia]

End of Service: 12/03/2020

By Joe Severino – The Charleston Gazette-Mail, W.Va. – Dec 4, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston Police Patrolman Cassie Johnson died Thursday afternoon, city officials announced.

Doctors pronounced Johnson dead at 4 p.m. Thursday, Charleston Police Chief Tyke Hunt said outside of Charleston Area Medical Center General Hospital.

She was 28 years old.

Hunt said Johnson will have a hero’s funeral service at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center, with a date and time being announced at a later date. Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin ordered all city flags to immediately start flying at half-staff until funeral services are finished.

“To say we are heartbroken is an understatement,” Goodwin said. “We are at a loss because we have lost one of our sisters in blue.”

Johnson was responding to a parking complaint just before 3 p.m. Tuesday on Garrison Avenue, and was shot in the face by a resident following a confrontation, law enforcement officials said following the incident.

Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford said Wednesday details on the investigation will remain limited as the sheriff’s office works to finish processing witness statements and evidence collection. Investigators will then turn information over to the Charleston Police Department and the Kanawha Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to determine what charges the suspect, Joshua Phillips, 38, will face.

But a few additional details into the investigation came Thursday.

Phillips allegedly parked his red Dodge Durango in a driveway that wasn’t his on Garrison Avenue, which led to the call to police, sheriff’s office spokesperson Sgt. Brian Humphreys said by phone Thursday. Phillips, who was alone, then entered into a home across the street from where he parked.

Phillips later exited the home alone, Humphreys said. A discussion between Johnson and Phillips beside his red Durango followed, which allegedly led to a confrontation.

It’s believed Johnson pulled a gun first, but it’s not clear who shot first, Humphreys said.

Phillips allegedly used his own firearm to shoot Johnson, striking her once in the face. Johnson shot Phillips, striking him twice in the torso.

Phillips, of Charleston, was out of jail on bond after being charged with driving on a revoked license DUI in January, according to court records. Additionally, a 2019 charge for brandishing a firearm was dropped against Phillips in July after the victim did not show up to court.

Phillips remains hospitalized at CAMC General and is still undergoing surgeries, Hunt said Thursday evening.

Johnson was hospitalized at CAMC General for nearly 48 hours following the shooting. Hunt said Wednesday evening she would not survive the gunshot wound. She was taken off life support but stayed alive while donorship for her organs was determined.

Hundreds of residents gathered at Laidley Field Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil to honor Johnson, a Charleston native and Capital High School alumna. She was sworn into the Charleston Police Department in January 2019 after joining the city as a humane officer in October 2017.

Hunt ordered the department to retire Johnson’s unit number — 146 — on the roster on Thursday, according to the city.

” The Charleston Police Department roster will forever reflect ‘In Memory — Cassie Johnson’ beside the now retired unit number,” Hunt said in a news release. “You may see a pin showing the numbers 146 affixed to uniforms of your Charleston police officers, or other memorabilia with 146 on it. This is our way of honoring the heroic acts of our fallen sister, Patrolman Cassie Johnson, as she gave her life while serving her home city.”

Hunt thanked the community for attending the vigil and for the outpouring support for the department.

“I want to thank everyone for their show of support for Patrolman Cassie Johnson, her mother, Sheryl Johnson, and the rest of the Johnson family. The display of pictures and signs throughout our city is truly moving,” Hunt said.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R- W.Va., honored Johnson on the Senate floor in Washington, D.C. Thursday.

“She was a devoted daughter, sister, a loyal friend and a lover of animals. She had three dogs. She was formerly a humane officer as well in our community,” Capito said. “And boy did she have a bright future ahead of her.”

A GoFundMe for Johnson raised more than $28,000 as of Thursday evening, exceeding its goal in less than 24 hours with more than 600 people having donated.

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