A San Antonio police detective who was shot to death while sitting in a squad car was apparently killed just for being on the force, the city’s police chief said Monday, a day after four officers were shot in separate episodes around the country.
There was no apparent link among the killing of Detective Benjamin Marconi and three other shootings in which officers were wounded, and officials cautioned that many questions about the shootings remain unanswered. But they added to the sense of a profession under siege, coming after a series of killings in which officers were singled out.
“I feel we were targeted,” said William McManus, San Antonio police chief. “I think the uniform was the target, and the first person who happened along was the target.”
In July, a gunman killed five police officers and wounded nine other people in Dallas, and days later, another gunman killed three officers and wounded three others in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Both gunmen were killed by police, but they first made clear that they were angry about police killings of black men. This month, in the Des Moines area, two officers were gunned down in their patrol cars, and police arrested a man who had been described as having a hatred of law enforcement.
Sunday’s shootings prompted strong reactions on social media, including some posts calling the episodes part of a war on law enforcement, or blaming people who have criticized police over a string of highly publicized deaths at the hands of officers.
Violence against police dropped to 31 officers fatally shot (aside from accidents) in the line of duty in 2013, from a high of 144 in 1973, according to records kept by Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit group that tracks such episodes. Last year, there were 39.
But so far in 2016, there have been 58 killings — a pace that would make this the worst year since 2011.
“People are reacting to this phenomenon of police being specifically targeted, which we saw some of in the ‘70s, but we haven’t seen it recently,” said Geoffrey P. Alpert, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina. “It’s hard to do community policing when you don’t know if somebody’s going to take you out.”
In San Antonio, officers were advised to ride two to a car, rather than patrolling alone, until the killer of Marconi, who was 50, is caught.
The officer had stopped a driver near Police Headquarters and was sitting in his car writing a ticket when a person unconnected to the traffic stop walked up and shot him at close range. The Police Department later showed reporters surveillance video of an unidentified person, taken a few hours earlier, at the front entrance of the police building.
The video shows a young man pacing and speaking into an intercom. The doors open and he enters, then he leaves seconds later.
“He talked to the clerk at the desk,” McManus said at a news conference. “He asked a question, and the clerk said that they would help him with that, and he said, ‘Never mind,’ and walked out.”
“I don’t know why he was in headquarters,” he added. “There’s several motives we’re looking at.”
The chief would not say what the man had asked, or why he was considered a suspect, but he said the dashboard camera in Marconi’s car had provided important evidence. Local, state and federal agencies were taking part in a sprawling manhunt for the man.
On Sunday evening in St. Louis, a car pulled up alongside a police SUV and shot the sergeant at the wheel. The sergeant, 46, whose name was not released, was hit twice in the face but was expected to survive, officials said.
The gunman was a suspect in a recent crime spree — robberies, a carjacking and possibly a homicide — said the city’s police chief, D. Samuel Dotson III, “and when he saw the officer, he became concerned that he would be recognized, and we believe he fired at the officer for that reason.”
“He was targeted because he was a police officer,” Mayor Francis Slay said. “This tells you how dangerous of a job it is.”
A few hours after the shooting, officers caught up with the man, who was a passenger in a friend’s car. Dotson said he jumped out of the car and ran, and shot at pursuing officers, who returned fire, killing him. The gunman was identified as George P. Bush III, 19.
A similar shooting took place in Gladstone, Missouri, near Kansas City, when an officer stopped a car and a passenger ran away. Shots were fired, the passenger died and the officer was wounded. Neither person’s name was released.
In Sanibel, Florida, Officer Jared Ciccone was wounded in a drive-by shooting while sitting in his patrol car. The officer, who was hit in the shoulder, was treated at a hospital and released. A short time later, police exchanged gunfire with a suspect and arrested him.
The suspect is Jon W. Hay, 49. Officials declined to discuss a possible motive, but Hay had a history of making complaints to the police that he was a victim of various crimes — stalking, fraud, attempted burglary, computer hacking and sexual abuse, among others.