There have been three violent attacks on police officers in just five days in the St. Paul area, incidents that speak to the dangers officers face on a daily basis throughout the nation, police say.
The first was last Wednesday when Mendota Heights officer Scott Patrick was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop in St. Paul. Brian Fitch Sr., who was wounded during a shootout with police hours after Patrick's death, has been charged with the crime.
Two other incidents happened over the weekend. A man, identified as 20-year-old Yee Vang, was fatally shot when he exchanged gunfire with St. Paul police after he allegedly carjacked a vehicle Sunday afternoon.
The third incident involved a struggle for an officer's gun. On Monday, Anthony Nickson was charged with three counts of terroristic threats and two counts of trying to disarm an officer, the Pioneer Press reports.
According to reports, a criminal complaint against Nickson says he tried to grab St. Paul Police Sergeant James Gray's gun while he was working off-duty at a Super America on Seventh Street East Saturday. Nickson had walked into the store and asked Gray to take him to jail, but Gray thought he was joking, WCCO notes.
Not long after, a woman came in, yelling at Nickson, who again asked to be taken to jail. Nickson then started looking at Gray's gun and told him, "You need to take me to jail. ... I'm gonna take your (expletive) gun," the Pioneer Press reports.
Gray noted Nickson's size – over 6 feet tall and weighing more than 300 pounds – and radioed for backup. Soon after, Nickson lunged at Gray's gun, reports say.
It took Gray, two other officers, a vigorous wrestling match and a hit with a flashlight to get Nickson under control, the newspaper says. An officer hit him in the face with a flashlight out of fear Nickson would get ahold of one of the officers' guns and shoot them, the Pioneer Press says.
The officers pinned Nickson down until more backup arrived. He was transported to Regions Hospital unconscious – he only suffered minor cuts and abrasions, WCCO says. No officers were injured in the incident.
Violence against officers isn't uncommon
St. Paul police told WCCO officers encountering violence isn't exactly routine, but it also isn't uncommon.
“They’re called upon to do dangerous work in order to protect the public and in order to protect themselves,” St. Paul Police spokesman Howie Padilla told the station.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi told WCCO they get cases all the time that involve someone assaulting a police officer.
This mirrors a national trend. Police departments nationwide are dealing with a recent uptick in violence against officers, MPR News reports.
Sixty-four officers have been killed in the line of duty so far this year, which is a 3 percent increase from this time last year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Of those, 27 involved gunfire, which is a 42 percent increase from this time in 2013.
The Officer Down Memorial Page says 105 died in 2013 – the FBI notes that 27 of the officers who died last year were feloniously killed in the line of duty, which is a 44 percent decrease from 2012, according to a news release.
Law enforcement agencies reported that 52,901 officers were assaulted while performing duties in 2012, which is a rate of 10.2 assaults per 100 sworn-in officers, according to the FBI's annual report. In 2011, 54,774 law enforcement officers were assaulted while performing their duties, the FBI says.
The FBI plans to release statistics on the number of officers assaulted on duty in 2013 this fall.