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Once again, officers down

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Dec. 22, 2009 at 7:58 pm |
January 14, 2010 8:59 am

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Angry man, violent history, gun. Once more that combination has produced a shocking attack on South Sound police officers who were just doing their job.

As of this writing, Kent Mundell – one of the two Pierce County deputies shot near Eatonville on Monday night – was in critical condition and clinging to life at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The other, Sgt. Nick Hausner, was seriously wounded but expected to survive. Both are married with children.

The man who reportedly ambushed them, 35-year-old David E. Crable, may have gotten 10 shots off at very close range before being killed himself. Under the circumstances, it seems a miracle that both officers were still breathing – however badly wounded – when rescuers reached the scene. Stopping Crable while under a hail of bullets was a considerable achievement.

There is no good time for police officers to be shot, but the timing of this attack couldn’t have been more traumatic. It’s only been a few weeks since four Lakewood officers were surprised by a gunman and killed at a Parkland café. That wound hasn’t begun to heal. Now the horror of that atrocity has been revived and amplified by yet another vicious, senseless, homicidal attack on officers who were trying to protect the public.

In this case, Mundell and Hausner were shot on a domestic violence call, reportedly in the very act of protecting Crable’s brother and daughter from him. Like the professionals they are, they were working to defuse the situation; shortly before being shot, they had reportedly offered to end the dispute by driving Crable home. For their trouble, they got a pistol emptied at them.

What’s scary is that domestic violence calls are a routine staple of police work. Such disputes happen constantly – and by definition they involve angry people, many of them infuriated by jealousy and often drunk.

It’s like stepping into a minefield, but officers must respond to these incidents day in and day out. The stress of handling domestic disputes is only going to get worse in the aftermath of Monday’s ambush.

The South Sound has been echoing with the sound of gunfire all year. This shooting. The massacre of the four Lakewood officers. April’s fatal shooting of five children in Graham – by their own father, who turned the gun on himself. The equally incomprehensible murder of an armored car driver at the Lakewood Wal-Mart store last June.

We can make the obvious points: There are far too many stressed, dysfunctional, broken families in this country. It is far too easy for violent people to get their hands on guns. Police officers shouldn’t have to fear lethal attacks on routine duty.

None of those platitudes is going to undo what happened to Mundell and Hausner. We can only hope that 2009 doesn’t spring any more atrocities on this region before the end of the year.

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