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Murdered Officers Part of Deadly Trend

The West Memphis slaying was only the latest in a disturbing trend of right-wing extremists murdering law enforcement officials

When 16-year-old Joseph Kane shot and killed two Arkansas police officers in May, it was only the latest in a disturbing trend of right-wing extremists murdering law enforcement officials. Kane shot West Memphis officers Bill Evans and Brandon Paudert a combined 25 times with an AK-47 after he and his father, Jerry Ralph Kane Jr., were pulled over in a traffic stop. The Kanes, who had traveled the country giving classes in “redemption foreclosure mortgage fraud,” went on to wound two other officers before being killed themselves.

In 2009, five law enforcement officers and a museum security guard were slain in three incidents in which the suspected shooters reportedly had each expressed displeasure with the election of President Obama. That was the most since 1995, when six officers were murdered by right-wing extremists, five of them in the Oklahoma City bombing that also left 163 other people dead.

The victims last year included three Pittsburgh police officers allegedly shot and killed by Richard Poplawski, who a friend said feared that President Obama was going to restrict gun ownership. (Poplawski’s case is pending). In Okaloosa County, Fla., two sheriff’s deputies were shot and killed by U.S. Army Reservist Joshua Cartwright, who was then killed in a shootout. Cartwright’s wife told officials her husband had been “severely disturbed” by Obama’s election, and local authorities said that he had been interested in joining an antigovernment militia. In Washington, D.C., neo-Nazi James von Brunn shot and killed a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Von Brunn, 88, who died later while in custody, wrote in a notebook that “Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do,” according to a police affidavit.

Since 1990, law enforcement officers have comprised nearly 15% of the victims of far-right killings — 49 out of more than 400 fatalities — according to a report published this year by the University of Maryland. Local and state officers have accounted for more than 70% of these law enforcement deaths.