Hours after two Columbus Police Department officers returned from participating in a tribute to slain police officers in Dallas, another tragedy unfolded with the shooting deaths of three more officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Lt. Matt Harris and officer Eric Kapczynski of the Columbus department had just returned home from attending funerals for two of the Dallas officers — Sgt. Michael Smith, 55, and officer Michael Krol, 40 — when news reports of the Baton Rouge shooting began.
The three Baton Rouge officers who were killed were investigating a report of a man with an assault rifle at about 9 a.m. Sunday and were shot during a confrontation less than a mile from police headquarters. It was the fourth high-profile deadly encounter in the United States involving police during the past two weeks, encounters that have left 12 people dead, including eight police officers.
The city police department will send officers to Baton Rouge once arrangements are made to honor the officers, to express condolences and support from the city and its officers, Columbus Police Chief Jon Rohde said.
“With the Dallas incident, the reason I made the call to send the officers was to show support for the Dallas officers, for law enforcement and for the families,” Rohde said. “I wanted to show we are taking a stance that killing those who are protecting you isn’t going to be tolerated.”
And after the killings in Baton Rouge, Rohde said the department needs to go to Louisiana. Not doing so would signal that the department is somehow accepting officers being killed in this manner, he said.
“I’m not willing to accept that,” Rohde said.
Harris described the Columbus Police Department and its officers as somber and quiet after the Dallas shootings, something that has continued in the wake of the Sunday shootings.
Rohde has reached out to officers through internal communications to tell them to trust their training and to know there is support for each of them and for their families.
“They need to be taking care of themselves mentally in the process,” Rohde said, pointing out that officers don’t get a “time out” to process what happened even as the Dallas and Baton Rouge shootings occurred.
“Our officers are going out on calls before, during and after these incidents and are doing the right things for the citizens of Columbus,” Harris said. Officers’ families are watching television of the officer shootings even as their loved ones are working a shift answering police calls, he said.
It brings into reality just how deadly the job of a police officer can be, Rohde said.
For more on this story, see Tuesday’s Republic.