Being a Moore County Cop Can Be Dangerous
There's a disquieting correlation between population growth, availability of lethal weapons and the number of law officers killed or injured in the line of duty.
Throughout U.S. history, more than 19,000 cops have made the ultimate sacrifice.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the national death count rose from one or two policemen killed annually to 50. During the lawless Prohibition era, it rose to 200 annually. This century, about three cops are killed each week.
In America, 900,000 officers risk their lives to protect others. Violent crime rates are at historic lows, yet 16,000 assaults on police officers occur yearly. North Carolina ranks sixth among states for officer fatalities.
Fortunately, Moore County's Sheriff's Department and Cameron, Pinehurst, Pinebluff, Taylortown, Vass and Whispering Pines police report no killed officers, albeit many have been injured carrying out their duties.
Police Chief John Letteney reports that Southern Pines has lost more officers than any other law agency in Moore County (five killed in the line of duty). From 1929 to 1961, every Southern Pines chief of police met a violent end.
Chief Joseph Kelly was shot at Massachusetts Avenue and May Street in 1929, when he stopped a car driven by a burglary suspect. In 1931, Chief Benjamin Beasley was shot by a criminal in Durham. In 1939, Chief Jasper Addison Gargis died after struggling with a violent man, while trying to subdue him at the same intersection where Kelly was shot.
In 1961, Chief Charles Edwin Newton was killed answering a -disturbance call while trying to -disarm a disturbed man armed with a shotgun. Newton was shot in the face and killed instantly. Detective Ed Harris, a 20-year law enforcement professional, was assassinated in 1991 by drug dealers who came to his home and shot him six times in the face in retaliation for a drug investigation he was conducting. They also wounded his wife.
On June 17, 1946, soon after the town of Hemp changed its name to Robbins, it lost its popular police chief, Shellie Wayne Moxley, after a deadly shootout with two drunks in the E.E. Moss Grocery Store. Moxley killed one man and wounded another but was fatally shot twice in the stomach and once in the shoulder.
In Aberdeen, on Jan. 10, 1924, Police Chief William Pross Page was shot and killed trying to apprehend a burglary suspect.
Carthage lost Chief Bernice Cameron on March 15, 1953, shotgunned in the face when eight men ambushed him in a dark alley. Only 24 years of age, he'd been on the force a mere four months. In 2009 Carthage police officer Justin Garner was wounded apprehending recently convicted killer Robert Stewart at Pinelake nursing home.
These deadly incidences are dramatic evidence that the life of a policeman has always been a dangerous one in our county. And as long as guns of all kinds find their way into the hands of criminals and the mentally disturbed, the risks to those in law enforcement are only exacerbated.
Congressman Howard Coble, who voted to allow handguns to be carried concealed into our once halcyon national parks, has had a 100 percent pro-NRA voting record. Both he and GOP Congresswomn Renee Ellmers, perhaps soon to represent this -district in 2012, support HR822, the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, which will allow out-of-state visitors to bring concealed guns into North Carolina.
Ask any cop you know how he or she feels about that disconcertingly dangerous idea.
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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