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Witness describes Baton Rouge police shootout scene
02:10 - Source: CNN

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So far in 2016, 32 law enforcement fatalities have been firearms-related

Traffic-related incidents, such as car and motorcycle crashes, are another cause of officer fatalities

CNN  — 

The shooting deaths of three officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this month pushed the number of law enforcement fatalities past a tragic benchmark.

As of July 20, 32 law enforcement officers were shot to death in the United States, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which keeps data on officers killed on the job.

That’s up 78% from this time last year, when gun-related deaths accounted for 18 of 62 law enforcement fatalities through July 20, 2015. And it means gun-related deaths account for nearly half of the 67 law enforcement fatalities this year.

The July 17 shooting in Baton Rouge and the July 7 sniper attack on law enforcement officers in Dallas come at a time of heightened tensions between law enforcement and the communities they serve after civilian cameras captured the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota at the hands of police.

Annual rates of shooting deaths of law enforcement officers have fluctuated over the past 10 years.

The decade’s highest number of deaths came in 2011, with 73 officers shot and killed. That number decreased dramatically to 33 by 2013, only to rise to 49 by 2014.

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund spokesman Steve Groeninger said the officers’ deaths point to a rapidly escalating trend.

“It’s very concerning to see that firearms are responsible for more law enforcement fatalities today than this time last year,” Groeninger said.

Groeninger said that events such as the officers’ shooting deaths in Louisiana and Dallas “show that there are those who are apparently targeting law enforcement because of the uniform they wear or the role they play, and it’s very troubling.”

Firearms were responsible for 41 of 123 officer fatalities in 2015, according to the officers memorial fund, but it was not the No. 1 cause of death.

Traffic-related incidents, such as automobile and motorcycle crashes, caused 48 deaths. Other causes such as drownings, electrocutions, falls and fire-related incidents led to 34 deaths.

So far in 2016, however, gun-related deaths are the leading cause of fatalities, according to the data, followed by 24 traffic-related fatalities and eight in the “other” category.