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Officer’s shooting stuns community, raises questions

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For the second time in less than a year, Killeen police officers gathered this weekend to mourn the loss of a colleague who died in the line of duty.

And once again, they were joined by hundreds of local residents who turned out to pay their respects to a beloved and respected public servant.

As with the fatal shooting of KPD Officer Robert “Bobby” Hornsby last July, Detective Charles “Chuck” Dinwiddie was serving with a SWAT unit when he and three other officers were shot May 9.

In each case, the officers were in the process of entering a residence when the occupant opened fire.

Last year’s SWAT incident involved a soldier who was known to be armed with an assault rifle inside his Killeen apartment and who reportedly had been drinking heavily. After firing a shot at the SWAT team, he appeared ready to surrender, but then grabbed the rifle and started firing at the officers, striking Hornsby and another SWAT team member. The gunman was killed in the subsequent exchange of fire.

In the May 9 shooting, officers were in the process of executing a “no knock” warrant on a suspected drug dealer in a predawn raid when the occupant of the residence fired on police. The gunman then ran out a back door and was subsequently apprehended.

Both instances dramatically illustrate the inherent danger that accompanies police work — which is undoubtedly magnified for SWAT team members.

In the wake of this latest tragic episode, KPD officials will review strategies and procedures for executing search warrants to determine if anything should have been done differently. Indeed, an internal review is already underway.

In executing a “no knock” warrant, which doesn’t require police to announce themselves before entering a residence, officers usually have the element of surprise on their side — which is crucial to denying suspects the opportunity to destroy evidence. But entering unannounced potentially puts officers at greater risk, especially if the suspect is armed.

Given that enhanced risk, it’s legitimate to ask whether a different, less instrusive strategy might have been employed — such as waiting for the suspect to leave the residence or arresting him in his vehicle. No doubt, these are some of the questions that will be asked as police officials review the facts of the May 9 shooting.

In the meantime, the community grieves the loss of an 18-year police veteran, who by all accounts was beloved both on the force and in the community.

As with Officer Hornsby, Detective Dinwiddie was a devoted family man, a loving husband and father. Both men were known for their dedication to their jobs and for their positive outlook on life.

As Dinwiddie’s sister described him last week, he was “the glue” of their family, a man who was always ready to help his friends and loved ones. In short, he was their “superhero,” his sister said.

She was heartened by the response of the police department and the community following her brother’s death.

Indeed, just three days after a fund was established for the family of the fallen officer, contributions totaled more than $15,700. Given the Killeen community’s outpouring of support for the Hornsby family last year, it’s not unreasonable to expect donations to exceed the fund’s $20,000 goal.

It’s the least we can do as a community to support these families as they struggle with a tragic loss.

Moving forward, we must never take for granted the sacrifices our law enforcement officers make on our behalf on a daily basis. With every traffic stop, every domestic violence call, every drug bust, our officers put their lives on the line. We must honor and respect their commitment.

But we also must demand that everything possible is done to protect those who protect us — from providing the highest-quality gear and equipment, to offering the best possible supervision and training.

Ultimately, the lives of our law enforcement officers — and in turn, those of their families — depend on it.

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