Officers above the 3rd precinct in position to suppress attacks from the rioters. Photo by Joshua Skovlund/Coffee or Die.
Violence directed at police officers has increased dramatically in the aftermath of the in-custody death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis. The killing of the 46-year-old black man set off a mass public uproar, international protests, and riots.
In Ben Lamond, just outside of Santa Cruz, California, officers were ambushed by an active duty U.S. Air Force airman. The officers were in pursuit of a suspicious van when it suddenly pulled into a driveway. When officers approached, they were attacked with gunfire and explosive devices. Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller died after suffering fatal gunshot wounds. He was married with one child and another on the way. Two other officers were also injured, and the suspect is facing first-degree murder charges.
Additionally, a video surfaced in Buffalo, New York, of an SUV pummeling through a police riot line, injuring three officers. According to ABC7, all three officers are in stable condition. The suspects in the car are reported to have been involved with a shooting prior to running over the officers.
Attacks on police officers initially began with rocks, bricks, and other projectiles being thrown at them, and was met in kind with less-lethal munitions. Reports of rioters clashing with police and National Guard soldiers continued to surface over the past week, and at least 50 Secret Service agents were injured after clashes with rioters erupted outside the White House barricades.
Since then, signs of urban warfare have been surfacing in numerous cities throughout the U.S. Pallets of bricks and landscaping rocks have been popping up in areas near protests and riots. It is still unknown who is responsible for their strategic placing. Minneapolis residents found bottles of gasoline, kerosene, and other flammable or dangerous items. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has been receiving tips for locating the items, and citizens have aided in discarding the potential hazards.
Officers are now being attacked by more lethal means and with more direct strategies.
When Officer Justin Putnam and his colleagues responded to a domestic assault incident in a San Marcos, Texas, apartment complex, they were ambushed by a male with a rifle. Putnam was killed and two other officers wounded before the suspect turned the rifle on himself and took his own life.
Clark County, Nevada, Sheriff Joe Lombardo held a press briefing late on June 2 after an officer was injured while attempting to maintain order during the protests and riots in Las Vegas. “Our officers were attempting to get some of the protesters into custody when a shot rang out and our officer went down,” Lombardo said. The officer is reported to be on life support at the University Medical Center. A suspect has been taken into custody.
The officers who have died in the line of duty are a few examples of the violence that law enforcement is experiencing nationwide since the protests and riots started last month. The direct reasoning behind the deaths of these officers and the continued violence is unknown.
Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.
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