Op-Ed by Springfield Special Agent in Charge David Nanz: A Story That Needs Telling
The following op-ed by FBI Springfield Special Agent in Charge David Nanz was published in The Edwardsville Intelligencer.
We have seen an appalling increase in law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty this past year. It’s a tragedy that deserves much more attention than it’s getting. Seventy-three officers were murdered in the line of duty in 2021, the highest annual number since the 9/11 attacks, and the equivalent of one officer murdered every five days. It’s heartbreaking to realize how many officers left home to protect and serve but didn’t return to their loved ones.
Law enforcement officers are dealing with a wide range of threats at a time when the job is, in many ways, more dangerous than ever. Many of the officers killed last year died in ambush-style attacks. The dangers are very real.
In the area of Illinois covered by the FBI’s Springfield Field Office, we lost five law enforcement officers last year in the line of duty. On May 19, Champaign Police Officer Chris Oberheim was shot while responding to a domestic disturbance call. On August 4, Brooklyn Police Officer Brian Pierce, Jr. was struck and killed by a fleeing vehicle. On October 26, Pontoon Beach Police Officer Tyler Timmins was shot while investigating a stolen vehicle. And in a 24-hour period from December 29 to 30, Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputy Sean Riley was shot and killed after responding to assist a motorist, and Bradley Police Sergeant Marlene Rittmanic was shot while attempting to locate the owner of dogs left in a car.
The FBI too experienced loss in 2021. Miami Special Agents Laura Schwartzenberger and Daniel Alfin were killed while performing the difficult job of investigating crimes against children, and FBI Task Force Officer Greg Ferency of the Terre Haute, Indiana Police Department was ambushed and killed outside his FBI office.
Each law enforcement officer killed last year was a son or daughter, and many were mothers and fathers. All were beloved community members who sought to serve their fellow citizens. Each paid the ultimate price, giving their last full measure of selfless devotion to duty. We should also remember the scores of other law enforcement officers who were injured in the line of duty and survived, but whose lives are forever changed.
As we continue to mourn the loss of these brave law enforcement officers, we ask ourselves how we can make this tragic and senseless loss of life count for something. How can we honor their sacrifice—their bravery—their legacy? We do this by continuing the fight to keep violent criminals off our streets, and by ensuring there are resources, equipment, and training available to continue to do the work of law enforcement as safely as possible. But most importantly, we need to ensure the brave men and women in law enforcement know the communities they serve have their backs.
As we look back on 2021, let’s honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice protecting us. Let’s commit to working together because we know it takes all of us to keep our communities safe.
FBI Springfield Field Office Special Agent in Charge—David Nanz