They died in separate shootings. Separated by more than 2,000 miles, they lived with the peril and uncertainty that hundreds of thousands of U.S. law enforcement officers face every day. One was a 14-year veteran; the other a rookie.
Two law enforcement officers, one in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and another in San Jose, California, were shot and killed in encounters with suspects Tuesday.
Such encounters are all too common. The number of law enforcement officers shot to death in the line of duty rose more than 50% last year, according to the Washington-based National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
“Officers were obviously crying, grieving,” said Officer Alberto Morales, a San Jose police department spokesman.”They will do so for some time, as will many of us in the department.”
They were grieving for San Jose police Officer Michael Johnson, a veteran killed while responding to a report of a man threatening to kill himself, police said.
The suspect in the San Jose shooting was found dead on his balcony with a gunshot wound, authorities said.
Thousands of miles away, officers grieved the shooting death of Wisconsin State Trooper Trevor Casper of Kiel, according to the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, CNN affiliate WITI-TV in Milwaukee reported.
The suspect — a suspected bank robber — was killed.
It’s unclear whether the suspects were fatally shot by law enforcement officers or if they died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
“We extend our sincerest apologies to the trooper’s family, and the entire Wisconsin State Patrol family,” Fond du Lac Police Chief William Lamb said, according to WITI.
Veteran of San Jose force
Johnson, a veteran, was killed while responding to a report of a man threatening to kill himself, police said. Part of his job was to work with new officers.
Police received a call Tuesday evening about a “despondent, intoxicated man, who possibly had access to a weapon, including a rifle,” said San Jose police Chief Larry Esquivel.
When officers arrived at the scene, they were met with gunfire, said Esquivel, adding that investigators were still trying “to understand what truly happened.”
Johnson was the first San Jose officer killed in the line of duty in 14 years. The last officer killed in the line of duty, Jeffrey Fontana, was in the same academy graduating class, Esquivel said.
“It’s unfortunate for any of our officers to lose their lives, whether it’s that class or any class,” he said.
It’s not known whether the suspect was wounded in the exchange of gunfire, the police chief said.
“SJPD grieves as we offer our condolences to the family of our brother,” the police department tweeted.
Morales said the death had shaken many officers.
“Our hearts, prayers go out with the family of Michael, our brother. This is a very, very difficult time right now.”
He remembered Johnson’s smile and bright eyes, how he was “full of life and cared a lot about his job.”
“It’s a tough thing to relay to your fellow officers who have to go out there to continue to do this job,” Morales said.
“But rest assured, that we will keep him in our memories as we go out there and continue to do the job that we love to do, and I’m sure he loved to do.”
In Wisconsin, Casper was killed during an attempted bank robbery in Fond du Lac, authorities said. He had been sworn in as a state trooper in December, according to media reports and a Facebook page dedicated to his memory.
Gunfire rang out when the trooper was pursuing a car that matched the description of one used in a bank robbery, CNN affiliate WITI-TV in Milwaukee reported.
The suspect, identified as Steven Timothy Snyder, also died, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Police believe the suspect may have shot and killed a man in his 60s after leaving the bank, the station reported.
Authorities are not looking for any additional suspects.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation will conduct an investigation, a requirement for officer-involved shootings in the state.
“Our son Trevor was an amazing young man who from a young age would do anything to help anyone,” the trooper’s family said in a statement posted on Facebook. “It did not surprise us when he selected a career in law enforcement. Even as a young child he was always helping others. Trevor had a soft and good heart. He truly believed his sole purpose in life was to serve and protect others.”
When his family asked Casper whether he was ready for a career as a trooper, “Trevor proudly told us that he was ‘born ready to do this job.’ Trevor was so very proud of his career as a Wisconsin State Trooper. As a family we are so deeply honored that our son served as a law enforcement officer with the Wisconsin State Patrol and we share in their grief and loss. We are so deeply saddened by this loss and wish to thank everyone who has assisted us during this time,” the statement added.
The shooting occurred on the four-year anniversary of the death of Fond du Lac police Officer Craig Birkholz, who was shot and killed during a standoff with a suspect, WITI reported.
“Our hearts go out to his fellow officers, his friends, and especially his family,” said a statement on the Wisconsin Professional Police Association’s Facebook page. “May we never forget his sacrifice and that of his loved ones who shared and supported his devotion to our common security.”
A total of 1,501 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty between 2004 and 2013 — an average of one death every 58 hours, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.