Today, Branding Nielsen and Jeremy Triche were shot and killed. Michael Scott Boyington and Jason Triche were wounded in a related incident. All four are deputies in St. John’s the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. Five suspects are in custody for the “ambush-style” attack in a Valero refinery parking lot.
Three days ago, a Brazos County, Texas constable was killed serving an eviction notice near Texas A&M. Brian Bachmann was 10-42, headed home to his family, and took the notice for another officer. Three other officers were wounded in the shootout. The suspect was killed.
67 officers have been killed in the line of duty, to date, in 2012. That’s obviously down from 2011, but it seems more lately that these LODDs are targeted murders of LEOs, not “occupational hazards.” Less traffic stops gone bad, and more IEDs strategically placed for maximum damage. I’m not saying that makes it worse, or that anyone should expect to die on a traffic stop any more than at a standoff with an armed suspect, but people are getting scarier by the hour. And I’m watching my husband walk out the door and drive away, knowing the possibilities.
I read about these officers like Triche and Bachman, and think of their wives getting that knock at the door. Sometimes, I think of what it would be like to be that woman, and feel ashamedly, blessedly glad that I’m not. I could be. Any of us could be “that wife,” the one who lost her husband in a gunfight with a repeat offender, or in a high speed pursuit of a DV suspect with his kids in the backseat. Thanks to God, my husband comes home and kisses our son on the forehead, me on the cheek and lips before he goes to bed.
I read about these men (and women) who are killed on the job and feel distantly sad, as if a small part of me has gone with them. We are a family, all of us on the blue line, mo matter how far apart. And yet the more I read, the more distant it feels. The guilt for feeling that way builds. These people died protecting me, just like soldiers overseas. Shouldn’t I feel more than this? Shouldn’t I be doing something about it, in my community, somewhere? They left behind families, children, parents who loved them and will never get to hug them until they all get to Heaven. How is that fair? And why don’t I feel more for their deaths than a distant ache?
I know if I cried over every LODD, if I mourned every on duty fatality, I would never get off the floor. It would paralyze me. Maybe my husband has worn off on me more than I thought. Maybe my faith is stronger than I know. Last week, I got a text from 354:
Hey I’m out on an IED call I’m 10 4 waiting on EOD call when I’m clear DO NOT CALL ME I will call you I love yall 10000s
A younger me would have chewed her fingers off with worry. When we were first married, there were nights I literally couldn’t sleep, knowing the calls he was on and the nights he patrolled. I stayed awake in the bed, waiting for him to pull in the carport, and fell asleep curled up against him. The woman I am now read that text, bit her lip, refused to worry, and prayed for his safety. I got a call a few hours later – EOD showed up and were working the call, he was fine but he was busy and would see us when he got home. Three years ago, I couldn’t have gone to bed knowing he was on a bomb call. Now, I rocked my son to sleep, said another prayer, and crawled into bed. 354 woke me up the next morning when he collapsed into bed beside me.
I don’t know if feeling distant at these LEOs is healthy, or wrong of me. I do the best I can. I am trying to make a difference in my community, sometimes in the name of those who died trying to protect it and sometimes in support of the ones they left behind. We never think it could happen to us. But it does. It has to happen to somebody, and we should feel something, however small, when it does.