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Deadly Violence Against Police On The Rise

Springfield Police Dept

National statistics point to an increase in deadly violence against law enforcement officers. A 36 year veteran policeman in Springfield Massachusetts was the latest to lose his life in the line of duty when he was shot dead earlier this week while trying to resolve a domestic dispute.   WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

        Before Springfield police officer Kevin Ambrose  lost his life Monday after being shot twice, it had been almost 27 years since a member of the Springfield Police Department had  died in the line of duty.And, the last law enforcement officer slain on the job anywhere in Western Massachusetts was in 1999.  But, there have been close calls.

        Just last April, a man holed up in an apartment with an automatic rifle and many rounds of ammunition shot up an area of downtown Chicopee, targeting police as they responded, and wounding Massachusetts State Trooper John Vasquez.

        Vasquez was shot in the hand and leg and has six weeks of physical therapy left. Despite his brush with death he’s anxious to put his blue  uniform on again and report for duty.

        Vasquez, State Trooper Keller Williams, Chicopee Police Officers David Benoit and John Jusino were awarded the department’s Medal of Valor, its’  highest honor this week.. Eight other law enforcement officers were awarded meritorious service ribbons for their actions on that day. 

 The  ceremony  was attended by two hundred  people, including police officers, state troopers and their families. It had a special poignancy given the tragic events in Springfield. Medal of Honor recipient  Jusino says every officer knows the risks.

Last year was one of the deadliest years for law enforcement in recent memory, according to the National Law Enforcement  Officers Memorial Fund. It reported 177 officers died in the line of duty. And, firearms caused the most deaths for the first time ever.

Chicopee Police Chief  John Ferraro said there’s no question  police work has become more dangerous.

The shoot-out in Chicopee that resulted in the gunman taking his own life after a two hour standoff began as a domestic dispute.  Officer Ambrose was shot and killed in Springfield as he tried to protect a woman and her infant child from an estranged boyfriend, who , after killing the officer and wounding the woman, took his own life.

Chicopee Police Officer David Benoit says a domestic dispute is one of the most dangerous calls police answer.
Police say they’ve seen a rise in calls to help resolve domestic disputes which they blame on financial stress resulting from the recession.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.