In the last week, Lee Countians saw that we are not exempt from random -?and seemingly targeted - violence aimed at law enforcement personnel.
Last Sunday, a Sanibel police officer conducting a routine traffic stop was shot and injured in a drive-by shooting. The gunman fled and exchanged fire with police attempting to stop him. He fired at least 14 rounds using an AR-15 style rifle, striking two police cars, before being taken into custody, according to an Florida Department of Law Enforcement?report.
Officer Jarred Ciccone was treated at a local hospital and is recovering. No other officers were injured.
Officer Ciccone was one of four officers shot across the nation that Sunday.
The person police say was his assailant, Jon Webster Hay, 49, of Sanibel, has been charged with attempted homicide (murder first degree premeditated.) He is being held in the Lee County Jail on a $2 million bond.
A week ago Monday, a Lee County deputy was attacked while conducting a traffic stop.
The incident began after Edward Strother, 52, nearly struck Deputy Dean Bardes with his vehicle as the deputy was assisting the Florida Highway Patrol at a crash scene.
Mr. Strother sped off along I-75 as Deputy Bardes attempted to stop him.
Both vehicles pulled off at Corkscrew Road and Deputy Bardes got out of his patrol car. Strother attacked him, slamming Bardes to the ground, pummeling him repeatedly as the deputy struggled to retain his weapon.
Seeing the struggle and afraid the deputy would be killed or seriously injured, an armed passerby stopped and ordered Strother off the deputy several times. The passerby then fatally shot Strother after he ignored his commands.
Deputy Bardes was treated at a local hospital and is recovering.
Police work is dangerous. It always has been. Law enforcement personnel acknowledge that risk.
But the proliferation of random and targeted attacks rachet that risk up to a whole new - and wholly unacceptable - level.
Seven officers across the country were shot and killed in the line of duty the week before last alone.
So far this year 58 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed by gunfire in the line of duty - a 71 percent increase over this time last year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
We could offer reasons for the statistics.
Many have been proffered.
But we'll leave the analysis to others and instead offer two facts that rip through the rhetoric:
Such numbers strike at the heart of our nation.
And there is NEVER justification for random violence.
Sadly, Southwest Florida is not immune.