NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The number of law enforcement officers killed while on duty has risen across the nation, according to the latest reports by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Counting both accidental deaths and deaths from felonious acts, the number of officers killed rose by 40% from 2020 to 2021, according to FBI data.
Across the U.S., 56 officers were killed accidentally — in accidents such as car crashes — and 73 were killed by felons last year. And those numbers are the highest they’ve been in a decade.
“Law enforcement officers risk their lives every day to keep Americans safe,” Raul Bujanda, the special agent in charge of the Albuquerque FBI Division said in a press release. “Some of these brave men and women never make it back home to their families and loved ones. Their sacrifice deserves our respect and eternal gratitude.”
In New Mexico, two police officers were killed in the line of duty last year. New Mexico State Police Patrolman Darian Jarrott was shot during a traffic stop near Deming, New Mexico. And Artesia Police Department Corporal Thomas Frazier died in a vehicle crash.
Jarrott, 28, was killed by gunfire at close range after he was ambushed by a driver who was sought by federal agents. Jarrott pulled over the driver’s pickup truck along I-10. The man who killed Jarrott, Omar Felix Cueva, was subsequently killed after a 40-mile police chase and shootout with police officers.
Following Jarrott’s death, New Mexico Lt. Governor Howie Morales expressed his condolences in an interview with KRQE News 13. A southwest New Mexico native, Morales knows the Jarrott family personally. “No words that I could ever say, nothing I could ever do, can take away the pain that they’re experiencing. But they’re grateful that there’s been so much outpouring of support,” he said back in February of 2021. Since then, a GoFundMe organized by State Police raised more than $100,000 for a memorial fund.
FBI statistics show that nationwide, 47 officers were killed during traffic stops and high-risk traffic stops last year. Those account for about 7% of all felonious officer deaths.
The FBI statistics show traffic stops are one of the leading activities that lead to felonious deaths. In fact, across the country last year, more officers died conducting traffic stops than engaging active shooters, responding to robberies, or engaging in any tactical situation such as hostage situations. But those numbers don’t reflect the fact that traffic stops are far more common than active shooter or hostage situations.
In New Mexico, the data just isn’t available to determine if traffic stops are more dangerous on average than other activities. A 2019 study from over 200 law enforcement agencies in Florida estimated that the odds of a felonious killing during a traffic stop were roughly one out of 6,500,000 stops. Of course, that means it still happens some times.
“One officer death is one too many,” says FBI Spokesman Frank Fisher. “We don’t want to see any officers give up their lives. They’re exhibiting incredible courage to be able to go out there, particularly situations such as traffic stops and responding to domestic violence calls — situations where they are called upon to react to dangerous situations in a matter of seconds.”
When it comes to accidental deaths, motor vehicle crashes account for the greatest number of law enforcement deaths, the FBI statistics show. In 2021, across the nation 32 officers were killed in some sort of motor vehicle crash. An additional 20 officers were killed after being struck by a vehicle.
Last year, Artesia Police Department Corporal Thomas Frazier died while on-duty, after colliding with the back of a semi-truck. Following the accident, the state flew flags at half-staff to honor the officer.