October 9, 2016

As Two More Cops Are Slain, National Press Fails to Spot an Alarming Trend

While the press almost single-mindedly forced the nation’s attention this weekend on things Donald Trump said many years ago, real life in the streets and neighborhoods of America intervened in a very ugly way Saturday afternoon in Palm Springs, California.

Three police officers were shot by a gang member. Two of them have died. The third suffered nonlife-threatening injuries and was expected to leave the hospital Sunday. Once again, the horrifying motivation seen in Dallas and Baton Rouge just three months ago, the desire “to shoot police,” emerged. With the exception of one local newspaper, the press is failing to report the serious consequences of these hardened attitudes, namely that cop killings are way up this year.

The bios of the slain officers and the criminal history of the already-charged suspect seem almost deliberately designed to maximize grief and anger.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, “Officer Jose “Gil” Vega, a 35-year veteran of the department who was due to retire in December, and Officer Lesley Zerebny, who had been with the department 1-1/2 years and was the mother of a 4-month-old girl.” Vega also had eight children and was working overtime on Saturday. Zerebny’s widower is also a police officer in another jurisdiction.

The local Palm Springs Desert Sun reports that suspect John Felix probably should have been in prison:

Felix, 26, was previously sentenced to four years in prison in an attempted gangland assassination. He was also the subject of a forceful arrest three years ago at the same doorstep where the Saturday shooting occurred.

… The attempted murder plot occurred in 2009, when Felix and another suspect managed to shoot their target but did not kill him. Court records don’t provide details of the shooting, but they do show that Felix pleaded down to assault with a firearm and admitted a connection to a street gang.

In a break from the wire service’s usual and often annoying dispassionate posture, the related Associated Press report by Robert Jablon and Christopher Weber Sunday evening described the officers’ murders as “cold-blooded killings” by a man who “wanted to shoot police.”

Being a cop has become more far more dangerous this year, and people “wanting to shoot police” is obviously a factor. The Desert Sun reported the following (link to the underlying data added by me):

The shooting came four days after a Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant was shot and killed in Lancaster while responding to a burglary report, and three months after a gunman killed five officers in Dallas, followed days later by another shooting in Baton Rouge, where three officers were killed.

Nationwide, the number of police shot and killed so far this year is up more than 40 percent from the same time last year, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. In addition to the deaths on Saturday, the organization says there have been 43 firearms-related deaths of law enforcement officers in 2016, up from 30 officers slain at this time last year.

Adding Officers Vega and Zerebny brings this year’s total to 45, which marks a 50 percent increase over the 30 such deaths seen though the same period last year. This year’s total already exceeds the full-year 2015 total of 41.

In lengthy and otherwise well-written reports, the LA Times and Associated Press stories cited above did not look at this frightening trend. Meanwhile, a local paper, covering a story which is breaking a community’s heart, found the time and the space for it.

What’s wrong with this picture? If anyone should be noticing the increased loss of blue lives to criminal violence, and especially violence specifically targeting police officers, it should be outlets that are national in scope. So why aren’t they?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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