A police officer has been killed, and three other officers injured, after a stand-off in Tishomingo County, Mississippi. A suspected gunman was also killed after a SWAT team raided the property. Police were called to what was described as a “domestic disturbance” on Friday, February 19. The officers who attended became embroiled in a stand-off with the occupier of the residence and, after an attempt at negotiations failed, they decided to send in a SWAT team, a decision which ultimately ended in the tragic death of one officer.
Reuters report that the police officer killed in the action was Lee Tartt, 44. Lee worked as a State narcotics bureau officer and was a veteran of the force with over 22 years of service in law enforcement. According to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, Officer Tartt received an award for Narcotics agent of the year in 2011, and followed that with an award for valor in 2012. He had an unsuccessful run for office as Grenada County Sheriff last year. He leaves behind a wife and two children.
The three other officers have been described as being in stable condition, but no other details have been released about them at the time of writing.
The suspected gunman killed in the raid was Charles Lee Lambert, 45, a local man. He had holed himself up in his home with his wife and his 10-year-old daughter when police had arrived, in response to a domestic disturbance call. Both his wife and daughter were rescued by officers, but Lambert was shot after he opened fire on the tactical teams as they attempted to enter the property. The decision was made to send a SWAT team after negotiations with Lambert failed.
Following the incident, multiple agencies have remained in place at the one-story property, which is located in the woodland of Tishomingo County.
To date this year, 11 police officers have been killed in the course of duty. Officer Tartt was the ninth to be killed by gunfire. Every time a police officer is killed by gunfire, it is sure to add to the ongoing debate about gun controls across the U.S., a debate which has only intensified since President Obama announced he was putting in place an executive order to tighten gun controls.
USA Today discussed the complexities of the gun control debate in relation to police deaths in an article last year. They highlight how states with lower levels of gun controls tend to have higher incidents of gun deaths, although they are careful to stress that this is not the only factor.
Gun violence across the United States continues to be a huge problem, with 33,599 people died as a result of gunshots in 2014. Figures for 2015 have not been finalized, but many experts believe that the figures for gun deaths will be higher than the figures for traffic accidents across the U.S. during 2015, statistics which have led to calls for tougher gun controls to reduce the number of people being killed by gunfire, whether they are civilians or police officers.
Ari Freilich, a staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, says as follows.
“We, as a society, live in fear when we go to the movies, when we go to church, when we send our kids off to school and when we send our police officers out on the beat and when we send young men of color down the street. All of these are indicative of a terrible problem in this country, which is that it’s too easy for the wrong people to get their hands on deadly weapons.”
Some states, such as Louisiana, don’t require any paperwork for private sales of weapons. Critics argue that this means that unsuitable people can get hold of weapons.
It is not yet clear whether Lambert got hold of his weapon legally, or whether tighter controls would have prevented the death of Officer Tartt. But it is clear that guns have played a part in another police officer being killed.
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