Sewell Chan & Jonah Engel Bromwich
The New York Times
Two police officers were shot and killed while sitting in their patrol cars in the Des Moines area early Wednesday, in what the police called “ambush-style attacks.”
“We’re just a few hours into this,” Sgt. Paul Parizek, a spokesman for the Des Moines Police Department, said at a news conference. “It doesn’t look like there was any interaction between these officers and whoever the coward is who shot them while they sat in their cars.”
“We’re developing some suspect information right now,” Sergeant Parizek said. “There’s nothing that we can share. As soon as we’ve got something that we can put out, it’s coming out.”
Just after 1 a.m., the police in Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines, responding to reports of gunfire, arrived near the intersection of 70th Street and Aurora Avenue, where they found a colleague who had been shot.
Officers from Des Moines, Iowa’s largest city, and other agencies were called in for help. Around 1:30 a.m., an officer was found shot at the intersection of Merle Hay Road and Sheridan Avenue in Des Moines — about a five-minute drive from where the first officer was found.
“The shootings appear to have been ambush-style attacks,” the Urbandale police said in a statement.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, killings of officers have risen in the United States this year, and the organization has noted with alarm an increase in “ambush killings” of officers.
A report released by the organization in late July noted that there had already been 14 “ambush killings of unsuspecting law enforcement officers” in 2016, compared with three in the same time period the previous year.
On July 7, five police officers were gunned down in Dallas by Micah X. Johnson, an Army veteran who was angered at police treatment of African-Americans. Ten days later, three officers were shot and killed in Baton Rouge, La., by Gavin Long, who had a history of paranoid rantings.
The killings in Iowa also recalled the ambush-style killings of police officers in Brooklyn in December 2014, when two police officers sitting in a patrol car were shot at point-blank range.
Sergeant Parizek, asked about the dangers that face police officers, grew angry. “These guys were gunned down, sitting in their car doing nothing wrong,” he said. “There is a clear and present danger to police officers right now. There’s definitely danger out there right now.”
He alluded to the tensions in police-community relations throughout the country.
“We’re very well aware of the society that we’re living in right now and the time,” he said. “And that there are some not so positive views of law enforcement that a segment of our population holds.”
“If we don’t provide the service in the area that we do, with the personal-type service that we do, we’re nothing more than an occupying army,” he continued. “We’re going to do what we can to keep ourselves safe,” he said, adding that the police would continue to “answer the call” as expected.
Sergeant Parizek said that Des Moines police officers would temporarily conduct their patrols in pairs, to afford better protection.
The killings appeared to be the first times Des Moines police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty since 1977. The department of 376 officers had been mourning the deaths of two officers who were killed in March when their patrol car was struck head-on by a drunken driver who was going the wrong direction on Interstate 80.