Holiday dangers for Law Enforcement E-mail
Written by Craig W. Floyd   

Sadly, Corporal Brooks never made it home.  Shortly before midnight, as he worked by himself, a sport utility vehicle struck and fatally injured him. He would become the first law enforcement fatality of 2008.  The female driver fled in her vehicle and was arrested the next morning.

“The death of Officer Courtney Brooks . . . as thousands gathered to celebrate the New Year is a somber reminder of the courageous work done by law enforcement officers throughout our state . . . to keep the citizens of Maryland safe,” declared then-Governor Martin O’Malley. A review of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) records shows that the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season can be one of the most dangerous times of the year for law enforcement.

Just consider that, throughout history, the chances of an officer being killed on New Year’s Eve is 30 percent higher (65 total deaths) than the average day (50 total deaths), and on Christmas the number of line of duty deaths is 56 percent higher (78 total deaths) than normal. Alcohol is certainly a factor in this uptick in law enforcement fatalities during the holiday season.  The death of Kenai (AK) Senior Patrolman John P. Watson is a case in point.

On December 25, 2003, Patrolman Watson was attempting to arrest a suspected drunken driver after following him to his home.  The man resisted and during the ensuing struggle, Patrolman Watson, 43, was shot and killed.  He left behind a wife and seven young children. Charlie Davis, a New York City police officer, was moonlighting in 1996 during his off-duty hours as a security guard for a Queens check-cashing business.  He wanted to give his family an extra special Christmas.  On the morning of Saturday, December 21, four armed bandits surprised the owner and Officer Davis as they rolled up the metal gate to open the store.

They forced Charlie and the owner inside while customers in line scattered.  The two men were being led to a safe in the back room when one of the burglars opened fire on the two men, killing them both. The tragedy of Charlie’s murder was only compounded when his wife, Angela, broke the news of her husband’s death to her father. Angela’s dad fell into a coma after hearing the news and soon died.

The joint funeral for the two closest men in her life was held the day after Christmas. As Angela Davis sat there that day, her thoughts drifted back to another sad day eight years earlier when she buried her brother, Ronald Hearn, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs police officer who, like Angela’s husband, was shot and killed while protecting others. About 20 minutes before midnight, on December 31, 1997, South Carolina Highway Patrol First Sergeant Frankie Lee Lingard was patrolling the roadways when he spotted a car traveling at an excessive rate of speed.

He gave chase and made the stop. As First Sergeant Lingard approached the car, the male driver said, “How are you doing, officer?” and then opened fire. Frankie Lingard was hit four times and bled to death within minutes.  As it turned out, the occupants of the car – a man, his girlfriend and two young children – were on their way to Disney World. But, they were driving a stolen car, the man had a suspended driver’s license, and he was a wanted felon. So, he decided to kill a police officer and take his chances on getting away.

Needless to say, he did not succeed. He was captured after crashing his vehicle during the attempted escape. A colleague wrote this tribute:  “Respected and loved by those who knew him, [First Sergeant Lingard] was truly someone who affected many lives in a positive manner.” New Jersey State Trooper Philip J. Lamonaco was simply one of the best. In fact, he was named “Trooper of the Year” in 1979 for his outstanding police service.

Devoted to his wife, Donna, and his three children, Laura, Michael and Sarah, Trooper Lamonaco could not wait to finish his last shift before Christmas so he could be home with his family. That was more than 25 years ago, and Phil Lamonaco never made it home. On December 21, 1981, he pulled over a car for a traffic violation – something he had done hundreds of times before.  Only this time, he had unknowingly stopped two hardened criminals – self-proclaimed revolutionaries intent on overthrowing the United States Government.

They shot Phil nine times and left him to die face down in a snowbank. When two state police officers went to tell the family what had happened, Donna and the kids had just finished baking Christmas cookies.  Trooper Lamonaco was buried on Christmas Eve. On December 18, 1932, W. Fay Dilworth’s long hours as a Deputy with the Black Hawk County, Iowa, Sheriff’s Department were catching up with him. It was just a week before Christmas and he still hadn’t found time to purchase and decorate the tree that he knew his six-year-old daughter, Betty, wanted so much.

So, as he began his work that Friday, he went by the Christmas tree lot, picked out a particularly handsome tree and left instructions to have it delivered to his home that evening. Betty would be thrilled. Before any of the fun could begin, though, there was work to be done. That afternoon, Fay Dilworth found himself alongside Deputy H. M. Mitchell preparing to serve an arrest warrant on a suspected rapist. The suspect was holed up with an accomplice just outside of town.

The two deputies went to the house to make the arrest.  As soon as they arrived at the kitchen door and announced their intentions, the men stormed towards them with pistols waving. The two thugs commanded the deputies to put up their hands. The two deputies complied, but Deputy Dilworth made a move toward the gunmen and they fired, killing him almost instantly. Little Betty Dilworth took the news of her father’s death calmly.

Fay Dilworth had often warned his daughter that he might go to work one day and never return. She had promised not to cry if that happened. When it happened that Friday, Betty remembered her promise and she held back her tears.

Craig W. Floyd is chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and is a regular contributor to AMERICAN POLICE BEAT.  Visit for more information about law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty

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