Six law enforcement officers have been shot, 1 fatally, by gunmen in three separate incidents in the span of several hours in the US states of Florida and Pennsylvania.
Police officers Matthew Baxter and Sam Howard were shot Friday night in Kissimmee, Florida, an area of the city known for drug activity, Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell said at a news conference Saturday.
Baxter died later in a hospital and Howard was critical condition, O’Dell said. They did not have an opportunity to return fire, he said.
“They were surprised,” O’Dell said. When asked whether they were ambushed, he said, “It’s too early to tell, but it’s leading that way.”
Three suspects were in custody and a fourth was being sought. Two other police officers were shot and wounded in the northern Florida city of Jacksonville while responding to reports of a shooter in an apartment.
“It’s a tough time for law enforcement,” O’Dell said of the Jacksonville shooting. “It’s getting tough to do the job.” Florida Governor Rick Scott issued a statement on Twitter saying he was “heartbroken,” adding that “we stand with ALL law enforcement in Florida.”
Tensions have been high between police and minority communities in recent years following a spate of high-profile killings of unarmed African American men by white police and their subsequent acquittal. Numerous protests have been held against police brutality in the United States. US police officers fatally shot nearly 1,000 people last year, amounting to three deaths each day, according to an investigation by The Washington Post.—Agencies