Local police are trying to figure out why an Urbandale man allegedly ambushed two metro police officers in the dead of night, gunning them down without warning as they sat 2 miles apart in their patrol cars.
The deaths early Wednesday morning shocked the Des Moines and Urbandale police departments, prompting both to take extra precautions to ensure officers' safety. Des Moines paired its officers so no one was patrolling alone, Sgt. Paul Parizek said.
"There's a clear and present danger if you're a police officer," said Parizek, Des Moines' police spokesman.
The officers killed were:
- Urbandale Officer Justin Martin, who was hired by the suburban police department in August 2015.
- Des Moines police Sgt. Anthony Beminio, who has been with the department since 2005.
During an 11 a.m. news conference, Parizek released more information about the events that led to the arrest of Scott Michael Greene, the sole suspect in the officers' slaying:
- At about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Greene was taken into custody on a rural road near the 100 mile marker of Interstate Highway 80 in Dallas County. The area is about 35 miles west of where the shootings of the officers occurred.
- Greene had flagged an employee of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and showed the DNR employee his identification, asking the employee to call 911.
- Dallas County sheriff deputies and Iowa State Patrol officers responded and took Greene into custody without incident.
- When Greene complained about a “flare-up” with an existing medical condition, he was transported to a Des Moines hospital.
- Des Moines police plan to interview Greene once he is released from the hospital.
Police said it appeared that both officers were taken by surprise and had no opportunity to defend themselves.
Urbandale police Chief Ross McCarty said it appeared that Greene walked up to Martin's patrol car and fired 15 to 30 shots into the driver’s side of the vehicle.
“The puzzling thing about this is that (Officer Martin) didn’t have any idea or warning or fear that anything was wrong,” McCarty said. Martin appeared to be stopped in his vehicle. “We’re assuming (Greene) walked up on foot.”
Early morning gunshots
At about 1:06 a.m. Wednesday, police from Urbandale and Des Moines departments responded to a report of gunfire at 70th Street and Aurora Avenue.
The first officers on the scene found Officer Martin fatally shot, police said.
At about 1:26 a.m., Sgt. Beminio was shot near Merle Hay Road and Sheridan Avenue while responding to the scene where Martin was shot — about 2 miles away, police said. Beminio was transported to Iowa Methodist Medical Center, where he died.
No one else was hurt in the shooting, Parizek said.
At 7:30 a.m., police announced they were looking for Greene, 46, who they described as 5-feet, 11-inches tall, weighing about 180 pounds, with brown hair and green eyes. Police said he was last known to be driving a blue 2011 Ford F-150, with a silver-colored topper with a ladder rack.
Streets at both shooting scenes were closed for hours as officers investigated, and classes were canceled for the day at Urbandale schools.
Police shocked by shootings
Parizek and Urbandale Sgt. Chad Underwood spoke emotionally about the toll the shootings had taken on both departments.
"We're a very tight-knit community," Parizek said of area law enforcement. "Des Moines is not a big city. We all know each other. We're heartbroken."
For Des Moines, it was the first police officer shot and killed in the line of duty since two officers were gunned down in separate incidents in 1977.
Earlier this year, two Des Moines officers, Susan Farrell and Carlos Puente-Morales, died when their police SUV was struck head-on by a drunken driver traveling the wrong way on Interstate 80.
Martin is believed to be the first Urbandale officer fatally shot in the line of duty, Underwood said.
Parizek thanked the community for its support when the department lost Farrell and Puente-Morales, as well with Wednesday's shootings.
"I don't even know where to begin on how bad this year is," he said. "This is what we do. We come in day in and day out, we go out there and provide the same level of service regardless of what's going on in our personal and professional lives."
Urbandale Mayor Bob Andeweg said he received a call around 2 a.m. about the deaths.
“It’s my worst nightmare to hear about the things that happened,” Andeweg said. “I’ve been struggling to find the appropriate words today and I don’t think I have them.”
He said no funeral or procession has been planned yet.
“That will come out in the next hours and days,” Andeweg said. “I think the first focus is to process the crime scene.”
Shooting jars area schools
Martin's shooting death on the southeast intersection of Urbandale High School shocked school leaders.
“It’s awful,” said Dena Soenke, spokeswoman for the district. “Our hearts and prayers are with their families.”
Urbandale Schools gave police security video that filmed the area overnight, but they declined to say what was on the film, referring questions to police.
“They have full access to view anything that might help,” she said.
In addition, school leaders are discussing how to help students and staff “cope and heal from this incident,” Soenke said.
Des Moines schools also took extra security steps Wednesday, including holding gym classes and recess indoors, spokesman Phil Roeder said.