Most officer deaths caused by gunfire, ambush situations, FBI data shows

53 law enforcement officers killed in 2018, 49 by firearms

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist
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Law enforcement personnel work at the scene of a shooting where four police officers were shot Jan. 28, 2019, in Houston.

The cause of death attributed to most officers killed in the line of duty is attributed to gunfire, according to an FBI data base. ​​​​​​

For the past eight years, an average of 47 officers were killed by gunfire every year, according to the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted Program, known as LEOKA. The FBI program tracks officer injuries and deaths from law enforcement agencies across the U.S. that participate in the FBI’s crime reporting program.

Last year, 49 of the 53 U.S. law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty were killed by gunfire and that number continues to rise.

LEOKA tracks criminal-related and accidental deaths. Last year, 53 officers were killed while encountering a suspect. The year prior 45 officers died under similar circumstances. Fifty-one officers died due to accidental causes, according to the FBI.

The southern U.S. territory also saw the most law enforcement officer deaths last year with 24 criminal deaths and 26 accidental deaths.

The LEOKA data base also highlights the increasing number of officers killed in what the FBI classifies an an ambush on the slain officer.

Of the 49 officers killed in 2018 by gunfire, 11 of those deaths happened in an ambush.

In 2016, 66 law enforcement officers died from injuries incurred in the line of duty during criminal incidents. Seventeen officers were killed in ambush situations, according to the 2016 annual report.

“Data has shown an increase in ambushes on our nation’s law enforcement officers,” according to the LEOKA website. “As a result, LEOKA trainers are studying the data with the purpose of shaping future training to help reverse this trend with information and education.”

Since 2010, an average of nine officers were killed in ambush-related situations, a review of the LEOKA annual reports for the last eight years shows.

LEOKA releases an annual report of all officer deaths and injuries. Those can be found here.

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