124 police officers killed nationwide in the line of duty in 2015

Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher wears his badge during an interview.

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U.S. POLICE OFFICER DEATHS, 1995-2015Lowest five years are bolded1995: 1831996: 1401997: 1721998: 1711999: 1442000: 1622001: 2412002: 1592003: 1502004: 1652005: 1632006: 1562007: 1922008: 1482009: 1252010: 1612011: 1712012: 1262013: 1072014: 1192015: 124Source: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

Fifty-two police officers were killed as the result of criminal acts in the United States in 2015, according to a new report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Another 72 officers died because of non-criminal circumstances during the year, the report said, bringing the total number of officers who died in the line of duty in 2015 to 124.

That count is one of the five lowest in the last 20 years, according to the nonprofit organization, which tracks law enforcement deaths back to 1791. But 2015's total is still higher than 2013, when 107 officers died, and 2014, when 119 officers died.

In 2015, most police officers died in traffic-related incidents: 35 died in vehicle crashes, 11 were struck and killed outside their vehicles and six were killed in motorcycle crashes.

Another 42 officers died from gunshots - 39 were shot and killed as part of criminal acts, and three were "inadvertently shot and killed," according to the report. That's down from 2014, when 49 officers were killed by gunfire.

An additional 30 officers died from other causes, ranging from electrocution to drowning. Georgia recorded the second highest number of officer deaths in the nation, with 11 fallen officers. That's second only to Texas, where 12 officers died.

No officers were killed in Chattanooga or Hamilton County during 2015, although Officer Dennis Pedigo was shot in the leg as he responded to the July 16 terrorist attack in the city. On that day, a half-dozen Chattanooga police officers shot and killed 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez as he attacked two military sites and killed five U.S. service members.

When Chattanooga police Chief Fred Fletcher released at a Dec. 21 news conference the names of the officers who opened fire, he focused on the danger that all police officers routinely face.

"Every day, officers face similar risks when they go to a dark door in the middle of the night or a car in the middle of the road," he said. "On several occasions this year, people have tried to kill my police officers with gunfire. This happens every day."

In April, three people suspected in the homicide of Robert Rutledge, 66, opened fire on police officers as the officers attempted to arrest the trio. No officers were injured in the shootout, although two bystanders - teenage brothers - were each shot once.

Police officers and deputies with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office shot and killed three people in 2015, according to Times Free Press records. In addition to Abdulazeez, law enforcement officers also killed Javario Eagle, 24, and Brent Pickard, 46.

Police said Eagle threatened a 4-year-old girl with a knife and gun that he refused to put down before he was killed on Dec. 12. Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputies shot and killed Pickard after a lengthy car chase on Aug. 26, and said that the 46-year-old "brandished a firearm."

In total, 30 people were killed in Chattanooga in 2015.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund estimates there are about 900,000 officers serving in the United States, which means that about one-tenth of 1 percent of officers died in the line of duty in 2015.

Ten Hamilton County deputies and 20 Chattanooga police officers have been killed in the history of the departments.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with tips or story ideas. Follow @ShellyBradbury.