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Officers across U.S. reflect
on Tampa Bay area shootings

By JO BECKER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 22, 1998


In Hopkinton, N.H., police gathered around a computer this week to find out the latest details from the Internet about the deaths of three Tampa Bay area law enforcement officers.

Police in Waco, Texas, watched clips of the Hernando County standoff on CNN, just as five years earlier the nation had watched an apocalyptic scene in their town.

And in Spalding County, Ga., where three years earlier Hank Earl Carr escaped from a rookie officer, sheriff's deputies counted themselves lucky and vowed to change their own procedures.

For the past three days, police officers nationwide have been talking about Carr's rampage Tuesday, and feeling it in the gut.

Survivors, mourners left to grieve

The funerals

Girlfriend of gunman was no stranger to violence

How many Hank Carrs are out there?.

Handcuff keys are cheap and easy to buy anywhere

Officers across U.S. reflect on Tampa Bay area shootings

Police memorial becomes focus for grieving

Carr's death self-inflicted, autopsy says

Previous days' coverage

For all of them, it's a time to grieve and a reminder of the dangers of their job. For some, it's a time to think about policy changes that could prevent a similar tragedy in their own back yard.

"First, you think about the loss, and your own mortality," said Lt. Lyn Benoit of the Grand Junction, Colo., Police Department. "Then you think about what went wrong."

Cpl. Tony Ranieri of the Spalding County Sheriff's Office said that before his agency even knew it had a connection to Carr, deputies were talking about what happened in Tampa from Carr's transport in a car without a screen to separate suspects from officers to the position of his manacled hands.

"We're probably just as guilty of carrying criminals in cars without cages," Ranieri said. "All of us discussed it this morning, and we're not going to do that anymore."

Any time an officer dies in the line of duty, police departments nationwide are notified by a computer bulletin. Last year alone, there were 160 such notices.

But the events that left three Florida law enforcement officers dead this week seem to have a special, emotional resonance.

"The fact that there was three of them, the fact that (Carr) had been apprehended and then escaped, makes this particularly gruesome," said Lynn Lynos-Wynn of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Lt. Bruce Price is with the Patterson, N.J., Police Department. For him, procedure takes a backseat to the faces of the dead cops he saw in his newspaper.

Like Tampa, his department transports suspects in uncaged cars.

"Everyone here is talking about it, but it's just a tragedy," he said. "You just think about those guys' families -- and your own."

In New Hampshire, the Tampa deaths have dredged up painful memories of the slaying of three police officers last year. Two were killed in a shootout, while the third was shot days later after attending their funerals.

"It devastated morale all the way up here," said Hopkinton police Chief Ira Migdal. "One of my part-time guys worked down there and wanted to go to the funerals, but he can't -- the ones up here just tore him up."

The news from Tampa also made Migdal think about the time he was shot in the knee 12 years ago by a violent teenager. "At times like these, it bothers me that I survived. It makes me feel so guilty."

In Waco, where four federal ATF officers were killed in a standoff that ended in the fiery deaths of more than 80, the standoff here provoked an empathy born of experience.

Assistant police Chief Brent Stroman knows what it feels like to be second-guessed and knows how hard that will be for officers and families who will face the investigation that invariably follows such a tragedy.

"They'll feel not only the loss, but also all the media attention and the questions that will be levied," he said. "That's another trauma in itself.


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