A preliminary report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund shows a 10 percent decrease in federal, state and local law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
Data by the private nonprofit organization that dedicates itself to “telling the story of American Law Enforcement and making it safer for those who serve,” showed 128 officers were killed in 2017 – a decrease from 143 in 2016.
Texas, which reported 14 officer fatalities, had the highest number of deaths, followed by New York and Florida, with nine each. California had seven reported deaths and Georgia and North Carolina each had six.
In Richmond County, four officers died this year, with one killed in the line of duty.
Sgt. Greg Meagher, 57, was killed Feb. 5 when he was overcome by fumes from liquid nitrogen at the Xytex sperm bank on Emmett Street. The longtime Richmond County Sheriff’s deputy went into the business to save an employee who was trying to turn off a valve.
Gregory Cooke, 43, an off-duty road patrol deputy, died from a gunshot wound he sustained during a domestic dispute he was involved in on June 15. On Oct. 31, Investigator Christian Gandy was thrown from his motorcycle after he struck a deer on Old Waynesboro Road. He was off duty at the time of the incident. One day later, Deputy James Wallace, 61, died from a heart attack he suffered during an annual physical assessment.
“When we experience an officer death, the death is felt throughout the county, and even more so through this agency,” Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree said.
There were no officer deaths in Burke and Columbia counties.
“We’ve implemented Below 100 classes (officer safety training), the wearing of seatbelts in our patrol cars and the wearing of our ballistic vests,” said Capt. Andy Shedd with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. “All of these have aided in keeping our deputies safe.”
The National Law Enforcement Office Memorial Fund, a Washington D.C.,-based organization, listed traffic-related accidents, 47, and gun-related incidents, 44, as a leading cause of officer deaths for 2017. The numbers are a significant decrease from those reported for last year, a news release from the organization states.
“After three consecutive years of rising deaths in the law enforcement profession, this year’s decline offered some encouraging news,” Craig Floyd, CEO of National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, said in the release. “Sadly though, the 128 officers who lost their lives in 2017 reminds us that public safety comes at a very steep price, and we must never take the service and sacrifice of our policing professionals for granted, nor should we ever forget the officers who died and their families.”
The last time officer fatalities dipped below 100 for a single year was in 1944, according to the organization. The deadliest year on record for law enforcement was in 1930, during which 307 officers were killed in the line of duty.