Bowie County, Texas deputy sheriff Sherri Jones was following procedure when she didn’t put Tucker Strickland in cuffs after his court hearing on April 18. Because he was a mental health patient, he wasn’t restrained during the hearing and wouldn’t be during his transport to a nearby mental health facility either. Neither would make it to the facility that afternoon.
At some point before the trip, Jones let Strickland out of the vehicle. The 21-year-old, who had a history of violent crime, drug violations, and police assault, overpowered her then shot her in the head with her own .38. He fled in the government vehicle and was caught an hour later in Arkansas.
Jones was the first and only law enforcement officer to be killed while transporting a prisoner last year. She is just one of 72 officers killed in the line of duty in 2011. The number is an increase of 16 compared to 2010.
The FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report, released Monday morning, includes narratives of how each officer was killed and a database that organizes each incident by state, weapon used, and about 45 other criteria. Three officers, including Jones, were killed with their own weapons.
For the Bowie County Sherriff’s office ,the incident promoted a review of procedures to “see if anything could be adjusted to ensure officer safety,” Chief Deputy Larry Parker said by phone Monday.
Now the agency checks past criminal records and mental status of prisoners before transport. If a prisoner gives any indication they could be combative or dangerous, a second officer is added to the escort.
Law enforcement officers and security guards have some of the highest rates of workplace violence, according to the Justice Department.
“You just have to try and keep your guys prepared and be as safe as possible,” Parker said. That includes making sure policies emphasize safety, ballistic equipment is up to date, and that weapons holsters have the proper retention level, he said.
Most officers (23) who died last year were killed conducting arrests. Fifteen were killed after being ambushed and 11 during traffic stops.
Other highlights from the report:
-- Two officers were killed by hand.
-- 11 officers were assigned to special assignments or undercover when they were killed.
-- More officers (10) were killed in December than in any other month in 2011.
-- More officers (13) were involved in fatal assaults that occurred on Sunday than on any other day of the week.
image - FBI graphic: Law Enforcement Officers Killed from 2002-2011