he Virginia state trooper murdered during a training exercise at a bus station Thursday was gunned down by an ex-con who reportedly harbored a deep-seated hatred of police and law enforcement leaders say it’s the latest example of a growing anti-cop climate that’s putting their men and women in danger.
Trooper Chad Dermyer, a 37-year-old decorated Marine vet and married father of two, was one of a dozen Virginia State Police troopers taking part in the training at a Greyhound bus terminal in Richmond when a confrontation with the gunman, identified by Virginia State Police as James Brown III, turned violent.
“He had a lot of anger about the police in the past,” Edith Brown told WTVR of her nephew, who was shot and killed by state police. “He said he would never go back to prison again… he would fight it out with them.”
Brown, 34, previously had been charged with crimes ranging from domestic battery to murder and was last known to be living in the Chicago suburb of Aurora, Ill., Richmond station WTVR reported. It was not known what he was doing in Virginia’s capital.
“He pretty much thought he wanted to be infamous… in terms of having a showdown,” Edith Brown told the station. “He always praised those people who got into shootouts with police.”
Investigators are piecing together what sparked the shooting, Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Steven Flaherty said, adding that the troopers were practicing interdiction.
“We’ve got a lot of evidence to sift through,” Flaherty said.
Police said the incident occurred at 2:40 p.m., when Dermyer approached a man just inside the bus station. The man pulled out a handgun and shot the trooper, who was wearing fatigues and no protective vest, multiple times. Two state troopers who were nearby returned fire, and the gunman ran into a restaurant inside the terminal, police said.
Even after police subdued the shooter, and as EMS workers aided him, he continued to be combative, police said. He died later at VCU Medical Center. His gun was recovered, police said.
Details about the training exercise were scant. Police called it “specialized training on criminal interdiction practices,” and said the troopers had completed the classroom instruction and were conducting field practicals at the time the shooting unfolded.
“Trooper Dermyer’s encounter with the male subject was part of the training,” police said in a statement.
Dermyer, who also died later Thursday at VCU Medical Center, was originally from Jackson, Mich., and had graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in 2014. He had recently transferred to the state police CounterTerrorism and Criminal Interdiction Unit.
Prior to becoming a trooper, Dermyer had been a police officer in Newport News, Va., and in his hometown. He also served in the Marines for four years.
State and national law enforcement advocates said they are increasingly concerned with an anti-police climate arising from a series of high-profile, racially-charged incidents that they say is getting police officers killed.
“Officers feel like they are targeted and they are being singled out for murder,” Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, told FoxNews.com. “There is a climate out there that increasingly says it is open season on police.”
The Officer Down Memorial Page, which tabulates line-of-duty deaths for law enforcement officers throughout the nation, has overall deaths down slightly year-to-date, but the number killed by gunfire – 15 – is up 150 percent through the first quarter, and on a pace for 60 for the year. In all of 2015, 39 police officers were killed by gunfire, according to the website.
In one particularly deadly week for police around the nation, five police officers were shot to death:
Mesa County, Colo., Sheriff’s Deputy Derek Geer was gunned down responding to reports of a person walking with a gun. A 17-year-old suspect has been charged with his murder.
Two Hartford County, Md., sheriff’s deputies, Patrick Dailey, and Mark Logsdon, were killed in a shootout at a Panera Bread in Abingdon, by a wanted man they sought to detain.
Fargo, N.D., Police Officer Jason Moszer, 33, a six-year police veteran, was also killed while responding to a domestic dispute.
Riverdale, Ga., Police Officer Greg Barney was killed exercising a no-knock search warrant at a suspect’s apartment complex.
Law enforcement advocates in Virginia share Johnson’s concern that anger at police could be making the job of protecting citizens more dangerous than ever, said Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.
“We are very much concerned about the image of law enforcement in this climate,” said Schrad, whose offices are in Richmond. “To be turned on by the public in this kind of hostile fashion, where Trooper Dermyer was apparently targeted by this individual because he was an officer of the law, is very disturbing.”
Prior to becoming a trooper, Dermyer had been a police officer in Newport News, Va., and in his hometown. He also served in the Marines for four years. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe praised Dermyer for a career spent serving and protecting Americans.
“Like so many brave Virginia men and women, Trooper Dermyer put on a uniform and risked his life every day to keep us safe, first as a U.S. Marine and then as a police officer,” McAuliffe said. “This is a loss that impacts us all. It should inspire prayers for the family, friends and fellow troopers who are mourning tonight, and gratitude for those who protect and serve.“
A prayer vigil for Dermyer will be held Friday evening 6:30 p.m. on the sidewalk area across from the Greyhound Bus Terminal the tragic event occurred.