FBI preliminary stats show 61 percent increase in felonious officer deaths for 2016

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday released preliminary statistics for felonious, line-of-duty deaths of law enforcement officers in 2016.

Although the full report will not be available until later this year, preliminary statistics show 66 officers were intentionally killed in the line of duty in 56 separate incidents in 2016, compared with 41 officers in 2015, which reflects a 61 percent increase in felonious officer deaths for 2016.

In 62 of the 66 deaths, firearms were the weapon of choice. Handguns were used in 37 of the cases, followed by 24 incidents with rifles, and a single incident involving the assailant armed with a shotgun. Four officers were killed during an incident in which a vehicle was used as a weapon.

Only 14 of the 66 officers killed had a chance to fire their own weapons, although 10 of the officers attempted to fire but were unsuccessful. Three of the officers had their service weapons stolen during the deadly altercations, and one officer died after he was shot with his own gun.

The vast majority – 50 out of 66 – of the officers were wearing body armor when they were killed.

Across the country, the South saw the greatest number of law enforcement officers killed — 30 — followed by 17 officers killed in the West, 13 in the Midwest, four in the Northeast, and two in Puerto Rico.

Seventeen officers were killed in an ambush, which was defined as an incident involving premeditation or entrapment. Thirteen officers were killed while responding to disturbance calls, seven of which were domestic disturbance calls. Nine officers were killed while investigating suspicious persons or circumstances, while six were engaged in tactical situations and five were performing investigative activities. Four officers were killed during traffic stops or pursuits, four were killed during “other arrests,” and three were killed while investigating drug-related matters. Three officers were the victims of unprovoked attacks. Two officers were killed while responding to calls of a robbery or burglary in progress.

In addition to the 66 officers killed by felonious acts, another 52 officers were killed in the line of duty in 2016 under circumstances which were not deemed either willful or intentional. The number reflects a 16 percent increase from 2015.

Just over two dozen officers died as the result of automobile accidents, while three died from accidental shootings and two officers drowned while performing official duties. One officer died in an aircraft accident, and one officer died as a result of injuries he sustained after being thrown from a horse while on duty.

The full report will provide final statistics and additional details and will be published by the FBI in the fall.