On Sunday, October 16, in the latest in a series of attacks on police officers nationwide, an armed gunman wearing body armor attempted to assassinate two police officers in Vallejo, California, near San Francisco.
Adam Powell, a 41-year-old African American, brandished an assault rifle with a 70-round magazine and targeted the two officers at a Starbucks coffee shop. When Powell’s rifle malfunctioned and would not fire, officers gave chase and according to a police statement, the gunman “continued to manipulated the weapon and presented himself as a lethal threat to the officers.” The officers fired and struck Powell three times without killing the attacker, now in hospital.
Powell had served prison time for robbery, so he was no allowed to possess any kind of firearm. Vallejo police chief Andrew Bidou told reporters Powell had stalked the two officers, and intended to “assassinate” them. The pair, he said, were, “ambushed by a man with superior firepower.”
That same day, Powell had fled a house in Suisun City where a two-year-old was shot and critically injured. The events, Bidou told reporters, “underscore the extreme danger our officers face on a daily basis.”
Days earlier, Trenton Trevon Lovell, 27, gunned down Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant Steven Owen in what police called a “calculated execution.” Owen was responding to a burglary call when Lovell, 27, shot him with a stolen gun, then stood over his body and shot the downed officer four more times.
The gunman, an African American, had served two prison sentences and Sheriff Jim McDonnell rejected any suggestion that Powell had shot in self-defense. He was “truly a predator, and not somebody who was defending himself in any manner,” McDonnell told reporters.
Also this month in Palm Springs, gang member and ex-con John Hernandez Felix, donned body armor and deployed an AR-15 rifle with armor-piercing ammunition to gun down police officers Lesley Zerebny, 27, and Jose “Gil” Vega, 63. Police told reporters Feliz attacked the policemen “because they wore the uniform” and was “deliberate in his actions.” He set up an ambush and shot the officers as they stood outside the door.
These events follow a summer of violence in which African American military veteran Micah Johnson gunned down five Dallas police officers. Johnson, 25, was a supporter of the New Black Panther Party, a group, as the New York Times reported, “that advocates “violence against whites and Jews, in particular.” Johnson sought to kill “as many white officers as he could,” and a search of his home revealed bullet-proof vests, rifles and bomb-making materials.
The recent attacks were not the first in which police officers found themselves outgunned by violent criminals. In February, 1997, Larry Eugene Phillips and Emil Matasareanu deployed five fully automatic rifles, some with massive drum magazines, and each of which was illegal long before the outcry against so-called assault weapons. When the robo-robbers grabbed $350,000 from a North Hollywood bank, the police responded with 9mm pistols, hardly a match for fully automatic fire.
As the bullets flew, the outgunned cops headed to nearby B&B Sales, a private gun store. The owner recognized some of the officers as previous customers and, overlooking the 15-day waiting period a typical civilian would face before being able to legally obtain firearms, quickly supplied them with four 5.56mm Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifles with high-capacity magazines and two Remington shotguns with rifled slugs.
Once the officers were on a more equal footing, they plunged back into the fray, taking down the two bad guys with no loss of innocent life. Police now facing ambush and assassination attempts by heavily armed assailants need to match the threat they are facing.
On the other coast last week, Kirk Figueroa, 33, donned a ballistic vest and fired a tactical shotgun at Boston police officers Richard Cintolo and Matthew Morris, critically injuring both. Figueroa, an African American who had faced criminal charges, told roommates he wanted to “revolutionize policing.”
Meanwhile, the group Black Lives Matter charges that police are hunting innocent African Americans and gunning them down for no reason. The narrative lacks any factual support, but the President of the United States has invited leaders of the group to the White House.
At a recent event in Sacramento, Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale, 79, charged that “police still kill black people at a rate far greater than whites.” Seale called for “more progressive politicians” and said, “We’ve got to get Black Lives Matter involved in the electoral process.”