Monday, September 10, 2012

Protecting the President: The Ultimate Sacrifice

Protecting the president is no small task. It takes tens of thousands of law enforcement officers and billions of dollars each year to ensure any president's safety.

The Secret Service is the elite agency tasked with the mission of presidential protection, but they couldn't succeed in that mission without the critical assistance of officers from local, state, and other federal agencies across the country. From providing motorcade escorts, traffic control, aerial support, and inaugural security, these officers step up to ensure nothing happens to the president in their towns.

And because of that fact, local, state, and federal officers are put in harms way. Nineteen law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty while assigned to presidential protection details or by offenders who planned to harm the president.

Officer Leslie Coffelt
One of the most widely known cases was the 1950 murder of Officer Leslie Coffelt, who served with the White House Police Force (the predecessor to today's Secret Service Uniformed Division). Officer Coffelt was shot and killed during a daring raid on the Blair House by Puerto Rican nationalists who were attempting to assassinate President Truman. Despite being mortally wounded himself, Officer Coffelt was able to return fire, killing one of the would-be assassins and effectively stopping the attack.

Officer Neal Ramsburg
A much lesser known assassination attempt that resulted in the murder of a police officer occurred on February 22, 1974, when a man attempted to hijack a plane at BWI Airport with the intent of flying it into the White House to kill President Nixon. Airport Police Officer Neal Ramsburg was fatally shot by the man as he attempted to stop the hijacking. Another police officer shot and wounded the suspect, who then committed suicide.

Incidents such as the Blair House attack and attempted hijacking are the exception, rather than the rule. The majority of officers who have fallen on presidential protective details have been killed in accidental situations: Motorcycle accidents, vehicle crashes, heart attacks, etc. And most weren't even Secret Service agents or officers. Of the 19 LEOs who have been killed, only six served with the Secret Service or White House Police Force.

We salute all the brave men and women who sacrifice so much to ensure our nation's presidents are always safe. We especially honor these 19 men who gave their lives doing so:

Operative William Craig1902-09-03Vehicle collisionT. Roosevelt
United States Department of the Treasury - Secret Service, US

City Marshal R. S. St. Clair 1917-12-21GunfireW. Wilson
Malden Police Department, MO

Captain Edward J. Masterson 1922-07-04 FallW. Harding
Marion City Police Department, OH

Officer Edward Baerwald 1928-08-15 FallC. Coolidge
Wausau Police Department, WI

Officer William Flack 1928-11-01 Motorcycle accidentA. Smith *
Kearny Police Department, NJ

Inspector Phillip C. Via 1929-01-11 Motorcycle accident C. Coolidge
Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles - Enforcement Division, VA

Operative James A. Hollinger 1936-07-26 Heart attackF. Roosevelt
United States Department of the Treasury - Secret Service, US

Operative August Adolph "Gus" Gennerich 1936-12-01 Heart attackF. Roosevelt
United States Department of the Treasury - Secret Service, US

Officer Leslie William Coffelt 1950-11-01 GunfireH. Truman
White House Police Force, US

Special Agent Thomas B. Shipman 1963-10-14 Heart attackJ. Kennedy
United States Department of the Treasury - Secret Service, US

Officer J. D. Tippit 1963-11-22 GunfireJ. Kennedy
Dallas Police Department, TX

Special Agent J. Clifford Dietrich 1973-05-26 Aircraft accidentR. Nixon
United States Department of the Treasury - Secret Service, US

Officer George Neal Ramsburg 1974-02-22 GunfireR. Nixon
Maryland Aviation Administration Police Department, MD

Deputy Kevin D. Mathews 1992-03-06 Motorcycle accidentP. Tsongas *
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, FL

Criminal Investigator Manuel Zurita VII 1998-01-06 Boating accidentW. Clinton
United States Department of the Treasury - Customs Service - Office of Investigations, US

Detective John Michael Gibson 1998-07-24 GunfireW. Clinton
United States Capitol Police, US

Officer Jacob Joseph Chestnut 1998-07-24 GunfireW. Clinton
United States Capitol Police, US

Officer Steve Bastidas Favela 2006-11-26 Motorcycle accidentG.W. Bush
Honolulu Police Department, HI

Officer Germaine Casey 2007-08-27 Motorcycle accidentG.W. Bush
Rio Rancho Police Department, NM

Senior Corporal Victor Antonio Lozada Sr. 2008-02-22 Motorcycle accidentH. Clinton *
Dallas Police Department, TX

Police Officer Bruce St. Laurent 2012-09-09 Motorcycle accidentB. Obama
Jupiter Police Department, FL

* Presidential candidate

Editor's note: This article was originally published on the ODMP Blog on November 5, 2010. It was updated on September 10, 2012, following the death of Police Officer Bruce St. Laurent, of the Jupiter (Florida) Police Department.