Police in Texas and Missouri searched early Monday for suspects in separate and seemingly unrelated attacks on two officers, both shot in their patrol vehicles, one of them fatally, by unknown assailants who made their getaways by car.
A gunman shot and killed a San Antonio police detective sitting in a squad car during a routine traffic stop outside the city’s police headquarters on Sunday, authorities said.
The Texas shooting unfolded when the suspect pulled his car up behind the parked police cruiser, got out, walked to the patrol car and shot the detective in the head through the window as he was writing a ticket, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said.
The gunman then reached through the window, fired a second shot into the officer, returned to his vehicle and sped away.
Hours later in Missouri, a St. Louis policeman was shot in the face and critically wounded as he sat in his cruiser at an intersection. St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson said the wounded officer was conscious and able to speak after the attack.
The ambush came from someone in a car that pulled up beside the officer’s vehicle, opened fire and fled. Police said they had no suspects.
Investigators likewise lacked any immediate clue to the identity of the San Antonio gunman but found no apparent link with the man who had been pulled over, McManus told reporters.
The slain officer was identified as police detective Benjamin Marconi, 50, a 20-year veteran.
McManus said no motive for the shooting was readily apparent, though he referred to recent ambush killings of police officers in Texas and Louisiana.
“This is everyone’s worst nightmare,” McManus said. “You never want to see anything like this happen. Unfortunately, like Dallas, like Baton Rouge, it’s happened here now.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement: “Attacks against law enforcement officers will not be tolerated in Texas and must be met with swift justice.”
McManus said police were looking for a man of slim build and dark complexion in his 20s or 30s, possibly with a goatee beard, whose image was captured by security cameras. The gunman made his getaway in a black car with tinted windows.
McManus did not say whether police believe there was a racial element to the shooting. He said San Antonio officers were being ordered to call for backup during traffic stops.
The San Antonio and St. Louis shootings marked the latest in a string of attacks on law enforcement across the country in recent months, at a time of intense public debate over the use of lethal force by police, especially against minorities.
In July, five Dallas police officers were killed when a black U.S. military veteran opened fire in a sniper attack during a protest against police shootings of black men. Days later, a gunman killed three police officers and wounded four others in Louisiana’s capital of Baton Rouge.
More recently, an Iowa man who had been ejected by police from a high school football game after waving a confederate flag at black spectators was charged with killing two police officers who were shot in their patrol cars in the Des Moines area.
A total of 57 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed by gunfire so far this year, a 68% increase from the same period in 2015.