Report: Police line of duty deaths down 18 percent from 2018

Dayton officer Del Rio’s death one of three in Ohio.

The number of law enforcement professionals nationwide who died in the line of duty in 2019 decreased 18 percent over the previous year, according to data released this week by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit group that for several years has tracked officer fatalities.

But the dangers officers face hit home with three line-of-duty deaths in Ohio, including Dayton Police Detective Jorge Del Rio, 55. He was shot twice on Nov. 4 while serving a search warrant on a suspected drug house. Del Rio died from his injuries on Nov. 7.

The national report, compiled from January through Dec. 27, revealed that 128 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers died in the line of duty in 2019, down from 157 officers who died in the line of duty in 2018. The same group said 129 officers died on the job in 2017.

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Texas had the highest number of fatalities with 17 officers who died in the line of duty, according to the report, as New York had 11 deaths, followed by California with 9 and Alabama with 7.

Georgia, Illinois, and Tennessee each had six officer deaths, followed by Florida and New Jersey with five, then Louisiana, Mississippi, and Washington each with four officer deaths.

Ohio and Colorado each had three officer deaths, while 18 states and the District of Columbia recorded no line of duty deaths in 2019.

Del Rio’s death rocked the Miami Valley. Thousands of mourners — ranging from residents to members of law enforcement from around the region — paid their respect to his family at a visitation held at the University of Dayton Arena.

He is survived by his wife, Kathy, daughters, Ariel Del Rio Busch, Erica Hampton, Veronica Del Rio and Naya Del Rio; granddaughters, Aliyah Shafeek, Luna Hampton and Santana Busch.

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“His work had impact regionally, nationally, and international,” Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said, as he discussed the well-respected detective following the shooting. “He was that good at what he did. He loved what he did.”

Biehl added, “Not surprisingly, after a life of dedicated public service, Jorge will continue to give of himself to the greater community by being an organ donor upon his death.”

During his career, Del Rio received seven written commendations, two letters of appreciation and one unit citation.

Del Rio was the first Dayton police officer injured by gunfire since 2012, when an undercover officer was shot in Trotwood. Since 1880, 24 Dayton police officers have died in the line of duty, stemming from gunfire, crashes and other causes.

Prior to Del Rio’s death, officer Mary Beall was the last Dayton officer killed by gunfire. She was shot in 2000 but died from related injuries in 2002.

The other Ohio officer deaths recorded in the 2019 report were two Cincinnati officers, Colerain Township Police Officer Dale Woods, who died Jan. 4 while on the scene of a traffic accident, and Jerrid Lee, of Bethel, who was killed in an automobile accident on Jan. 28.

Of the deaths in 2019, 119 officers were men and nine were women. The median age was 43, and the officers had an average of 14 years of service. On average, each officer left behind two children.

Handguns were the leading type of firearm used against law enforcement in 2019. Of the 49 officer fatalities, 27 officers were shot and killed with a handgun, while seven were shot and killed with a rifle and one officer was killed with a shotgun.

The statistics released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund are based on preliminary data compiled by the nonprofit and do not represent a final or complete list of individual officers who will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 2020.

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