Slain Des Moines-area officers identified; suspect apprehended in Iowa

Slain Des Moines-area officers identified; suspect apprehended in Iowa
Photo Courtesy: World-Herald News Service

DES MOINES (AP) — Authorities have apprehended a man suspected in the killings of two Des Moines area police officers who were shot to death early Wednesday in what authorities described as separate ambush-style attacks.

Officers from the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office and Iowa State Patrol took 46-year-old Scott Michael Greene into custody and were taking him to Des Moines, police said. He was arrested after flagging down a state employee on a road in Dallas County and asking to call 911.

His arrest came about eight hours after the killings of the two officers; they were identified as Anthony “Tony” Beminio, a Des Moines sergeant with force since 2005, and Justin Martin, an Urbandale officer with the force since 2015.

Police responded to a report of shots fired at 1:06 a.m. and found the Urbandale officer who had been shot.

Greene, who was apparently on foot, is suspected of firing at least 15 rounds from a .223-caliber rifle into the side of Martin’s stopped vehicle, as Martin, a rookie in his early 20s, waited to drive through an intersection, said Urbandale Police Chief Ross McCarty.

“I don’t think he ever may have been aware there was a gunman next to him,” McCarty said.

Authorities from several agencies saturated the area after that shooting, and about 20 minutes later discovered that a Des Moines officer who had responded to the initial killing had been shot in a patrol car at an intersection, Des Moines Sgt. Paul Parizek said. The shootings happened less than 2 miles apart and both took place along main streets that cut through residential areas.

“There’s somebody out there shooting police officers. We hope to find him before somebody else gets hurt,” Parizek said at an early morning news conference, during which he stopped briefly as he worked to control his emotions.

The shootings follow a spate of police killings, including ambushes of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Five officers were killed in Dallas on July 7 and three were killed later that month in Baton Rouge.

Des Moines and Urbandale Police later said they had identified Greene, of Urbandale, as a suspect in the killings through “a series of leads and investigative tips.” It is unclear if either of the shootings was captured on police body- or dashcams.

Parizek told CNN he had few details about the circumstances of Greene’s capture, but that he was on foot on a roadway at the time and was alone when he was taken into custody.

Greene is white. Parizek said the officers killed also were white.

Asked at a news conference about a video posted on YouTube that appears to show a man identified as Greene being removed from an Urbandale High School football game, Parizek said he was aware of the video but hadn’t seen it and couldn’t comment.

The video, dated Oct. 14, was posted by someone identifying himself as Scott Greene. It shows a confrontation with police who have removed him from a football game, apparently after he held up a Confederate flag near a group of African Americans. The person shooting the video, who is never seen, asks police to investigate an assault against him. The officers ask him to leave and tell him it’s inflammatory to display a Confederate flag at such a setting.

Urbandale Community School District spokeswoman Dena Soenke confirmed Greene was involved in an incident at a recent high school football game that drew police attention. She referred questions about the incident to the Urbandale Police Department.

A criminal complaint indicates Greene was involved in an altercation with his 66-year-old mother Oct. 17. Greene accused her of scratching and hitting his face. He captured the fight on cellphone video, which he used as evidence of the assault. A judge ordered Greene’s mother to stay away from her son and she was released on $1,000 cash bond.

Court records show Greene was jailed and charged with interference with official acts after resisting Urbandale police officers who tried to pat him down for a weapon on April 10, 2014. An Urbandale officer described him as hostile and combative. He entered a guilty plea and was fined.

Two days later Urbandale police were called to answer a complaint of harassment at the apartment complex where Greene lived. The complaint said he threatened to kill another man during a confrontation in the parking lot and yelled a racial epithet at the man. Greene was charged with harassment.

He pleaded guilty and received a suspended jail sentence and a year of probation. Court records show he completed a substance abuse and psychological evaluation.

The attacks on police this summer in Dallas and Baton Rouge came in the wake of several high-profile police shootings of black men, fueling a national debate about police use of force, especially against minorities — a frequent topic in the nation’s presidential race.

Republican nominee Donald Trump has argued that police need the freedom to use greater force, while Democrat Hillary Clinton has taken a more nuanced position of supporting officers while calling attention to what she and others have called examples of bias in policing.

Urbandale Sgt. Chad Underwood said he believes no officer in his department has previously been shot in the line of duty. The Iowa Department of Public Safety said Wednesday marked the first time a Des Moines police officer has been shot and killed on duty since 1977, when two died within months.

In 2016, 113 officers have died in the line of duty, according to preliminary data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Urbandale is a suburb of about 40,000 people in the Des Moines metro area with about 50 officers. Des Moines, a city of about 210,000, has about 375 sworn officers.

Parizek said the officers’ deaths are a blow to the city.

“They are our friends and co-workers,” he said. “Des Moines is not a big city. We all know each other. We’re heart broken.”

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Reaction to officers’ deaths

Early Wednesday, Ben Hammes, communications director for Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, released this statement:

“The governor and lieutenant governor have been alerted to the attacks on law enforcement this morning. Shortly after the shootings, our office was briefed by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) on the shootings. DPS is working hand in hand with local law enforcement in the investigation. We will continue monitoring and working with law enforcement in the interest of public safety.

“An attack on public safety officers is an attack on the public safety of all Iowans. We call on Iowans to support our law enforcement officials in bringing this suspect to justice. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the police officers who were tragically killed in the line of duty as well as the officers who continue to put themselves in harm’s way.”

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, also issued a statement:

“My thoughts and prayers are with the two Iowa police officers who were killed in the line of duty, as well as their families and the entire Iowa law enforcement community as they face this devastating loss.

“Although the investigation is still unfolding, what appears to be an ambush attack of police in the line of duty is an attack on the community at large and all of the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect us. This was a senseless act of violence and it cannot be tolerated.”

Iowa Attorney General Thomas Miller said in a statement:

“There are no words to adequately express my sorrow and heartache over the senseless murders of two police officers in the line of duty. I offer my deepest condolences to these officers’ families, their law enforcement colleagues, and loved ones.

As Iowans, we are thankful for these two law enforcement heroes who tragically lost their lives. We are grateful for all the men and women in uniform who selflessly risk everything to protect us and keep our communities safe.

I hope law enforcement officers across our state, who are feeling a profoundly numbing loss, can take at least some solace and comfort from the gratitude and support they have from Iowans.”

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer’s statement: 

“On behalf of the Omaha Police Department, I offer our condolences to the families of the fallen officers, their agencies, and the communities they serve. The homicides of the Des Moines and Urbandale, Iowa officers is an affront to all of society. Law Enforcement has been on high alert since the ambush-style killings and the suspect’s arrest is the result of the collective efforts of brave officers. Law enforcement remains a challenging profession and yet, we are committed to serving and protecting our communities despite the inherent dangers. Thank you to the Omaha community for your unwavering support of the Omaha Police Department and its officers during times of need and for your willingness to create strong partnerships to move Omaha forward.”

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert’s statement:

“The people of Omaha send our condolences to the families of the police officers killed overnight in Des Moines and the citizens they so bravely served every day.

This is another reminder that our police officers have difficult and dangerous jobs. They risk their own lives to protect our families and our neighborhoods.

These tragedies bring communities together in ways we hope never happen, but sadly do. Those who choose careers in public service and safety certainly deserve our respect and gratitude.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Des Moines and Urbandale Police Departments as they mourn their fellow officers and friends.”

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