Fugitive Hunters See Rise in Violence

St. Louis shooting
St. Louis police search the site of a gunfight that wounded two federal marshals and a police officer March 8, 2011.
By Producers Laura Strickler and Andy Triay

Today's gunfight in St. Louis, Missouri that left two deputy U.S. Marshals and one police officer wounded is topping off an unusually violent few months for law enforcement officials who serve warrants and arrest fugitives.

It started back in December when a fugitive set two deputy U.S. Marshals and himself on fire as they went to serve a warrant in Washington D.C.

Then in January, two task force officers were killed in Miami as they served a warrant. Two more Florida police officers were killed in late January when they responded to a request for backup by a U.S. Marshal task force also serving a warrant.

A few weeks later a deputy U.S. Marshal was shot and killed and two others were injured while serving a warrant in West Virginia.

Today in St. Louis, marshals went to arrest a fugitive who was wanted on charges connected to the assault of a law enforcement officer. According to federal law enforcement, the fugitive had twelve prior convictions and opened fire on the officers who had shown up to arrest him.

One federal law enforcement official who did not want to be named called the events of the last few months "horrific" and said it should spark a national review of field tactics. For example, in some parts of the country U.S. Marshals will ask for a local SWAT team to assist them with serving warrants as an extra precaution.

Overall, law enforcement deaths from gunfire in the line of duty are up this year. Sixteen officers have been killed in 2011 compared to thirteen at this point in 2010 according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

In 2010 there were 61 police officers shot and killed in the line of duty according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. That was up from 49 officers in 2009.

Nationally, law enforcement deaths have been on the decline since a peak in the 1970's.


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