Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Line of Duty Death Toll Continues to Rise With Four More Fallen Officers

A 25-year veteran of the University City Police Department in Missouri was killed in the line of duty on Friday, October 31st, as he sat in his patrol car at an intersection in a suburb of St. Louis. Sergeant Michael King, 50, died late Friday night after being shot in University City 's popular University City Loop area after a male suspect approached on foot and shot him several times. The suspect, a known drug dealer, was still at large at the time of this writing.

Prior to joining the University City department, Sergeant King served as a St. Charles sheriff's deputy and a probation and parole officer. He often mentored new officers and was formerly a field training officer and detective in the Investigations Division at University City . "Our hearts and prays go out to his family, University Police Chief Charles Adams said. "We're at a loss, just like they are. He was an extremely good officer, very dedicated and always did a great job. He was a very professional policeman and he loved being a policeman."

Sergeant King is survived by his wife Susan.

On Saturday, November 1st, Police Officer Frank Russo of the Schaumburg Police Department in Illinois died while working a day-off duty assignment at a local nightclub following a struggle with two suspects that had fled the club after being involved in a disturbance.

As Officer Russo and another officer began to struggle with the men, he collapsed and his partner immediately called for assistance. Officer Russo was transported to Alexian Brothers Hospital in Elk Grove Village , Illinois where he was pronounced dead a short time later of natural causes related to obesity.

Sgt John Nebal of the Schaumburg Police Department said that Officer Russo, 47, struggled to keep his weight down, but that it never hampered his police work and was never a source of concern around the department. "He was a big boy, but he always did his job without fail," said Nebl, who worked with Russo for more than a decade. "He was a phenomenal guy and he had an excellent sense of humor. He was a veteran, but he was still spunky and aggressive. If he needed to track down a suspect, he just did it."

Officer Russo, a 19-year veteran of the department, is survived by his wife, son, daughter, sister, and his parents.

South Strabane Township Police Officer Nathaniel Burnfield, 27, was struck and killed by a dump truck on Interstate 70 near Bentleyville , Pennsylvania Tuesday afternoon while trying to move debris from the roadway following an accident between a tire that was in the roadway and a double tractor-trailer belonging to UPS.

Officer Burnfield and two other officers had come upon the accident on their way back from a class and pulled over to assist. Officer Burnfield was attempting to remove the tire that had caused the accident from the roadway when an oncoming tri-axle dump truck carrying rocks swerved to avoid Officer Burnfield's police cruiser that was blocking the scene. The truck struck Officer Burnfield as he tried to get out of the roadway before striking the UPS tractor-trailer and overturning. The 44-year old driver of the truck also died at the scene of the accident.

"To try to move something off the road that could possibly hurt someone else, that's Nate, that's what he did," said Mayor Mark Pacilla, of East Washington .

"Nate was dedicated to public service, we're going to miss him," said South Strabane Police Chief Don Zofchak.

Officer Burnfield, a 5-year veteran of the South Strabane Township Police Department, was also a volunteer firefighter in Canton Township and a part-time officer in East Washington . He is survived by his parents and two older brothers.

A Chicago Police Detective who was shot in the line of duty seven years ago while leading an FBI Task Force at the home of bank robbery suspect, succumbed to his injuries on November 4th.

Detective Joseph Airhart, Jr. was shot in the head on August 24th, 2001, as he posed as a delivery man at the Southside apartment of the suspect when an intense gun battle erupted. The suspect took the wounded officer hostage following the shooting; he was finally rescued after over two hours of negotiations. The suspect was arrested and sentenced in February 2006 to life in prison plus an additional 132 years on 15 felony charges including two counts of attempted murder.

Detective Airhart suffered severe brain injuries and was left unable to walk, feed himself, or breathe without the assistance of a ventilator as a result of the shooting which left him in a coma for two months before he recovered enough to communicate by blinking. He was pronounced dead at 12:50 p.m. on November 4th at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago , according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office. An autopsy found he died of bronchial pneumonia as a result of the gunshot wound to the head and his death was ruled a homicide.

Retired Chicago police officer Len Bajenski, Detective Airhart's partner on the force for five years, mourned his loss. "I lost a close friend," said Bajenski, "The world lost a great kid."

A 19-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department at the time of the shooting, Detective Airhart, 53, was a 25-year veteran of the police department at the time of his death. He is survived by his brother and two sisters.


  1. What Katherine said. How sad, so very sad. Big hug Linda. :)

  2. Terribly sad stories you've shared here. Prayers for their families.

  3. As I've said before, these men and women don't get paid nearly what they're worth - their deaths are so sad. I really think if you kill a cop your neck should get snapped!
    I watched the new show on A&E about police rookies. On the last one, a rookie dies his second day on his own - just the day before, he got engaged to his sweetheart.


Thanks for visiting!