RECENTLY FALLEN: Oregon Officer Shot and Killed in First Days of New Year—Disturbing 2010 Trend Continues in 2011

Just one week in to the New Year, two law enforcement officers have been shot and killed. Rainier (OR) Police Chief Ralph Painter was killed by a fatal gunshot wound to the head on Wednesday,  January 5.

Chief Painter responded to a call reporting a car theft at a strip mall at approximately 10:45 am. Police said Chief Painter struggled with the 21-year-old suspect—Daniel A. Butts—who allegedly fired a gunshot that struck Chief Painter in the head and killed him.

Injured by a police bullet, Butts was sent to a Portland hospital before being transferred to Columbia County jail this afternoon on aggravated murder charges. The suspect’s alleged actions were described as completely out of character by those who know him. His shocked family members describe him as a “normal kid in a small town.”

The killing of Chief Painter, 55, stunned the Oregon town of 1,800 located along the Columbia River. Chief Painter is the first officer to die on duty  in Rainier since the establishment of its police force. An emotional Mayor Jerry Cole called Chief Painter an “outstanding police officer and friend for 25 years.”

Mayor Cole described Chief Painter as a “wonderful father, husband and grandfather;” one of the Chief’s sons works in law enforcement. Painter had risen as Chief of the five-person Rainier Police Department five years ago. “We can always replace the Chief of Police here in town, but we’ll never replace Ralph,” said friend Larry Gates.

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