Police in the Midwestern city of Des Moines, Iowa, have a suspect in custody who may be responsible for the ambush-style killings of two police officers early Wednesday.
Des Moines police department spokesman Paul Parizek said the suspect is Scott Michael Greene, a 46-year-old white male.
Greene, who is currently being treated in a Des Moines hospital, is in custody but has not been arrested. He awaits questioning by the police before charges will be discussed, Parizek explained in a press conference.
"It doesn't look like there was any interaction between these officers and the coward who shot them as they sat in their cars," Parizek said.
Urbandale, Iowa, Police Chief Ross McCarty said between 15 and 30 shots may have been fired at the officer's vehicle.
Police did not explain how they identified Greene as a suspect, but McCarty said Greene was known to local police from multiple encounters, including being escorted from a sporting event for brandishing a confederate flag, and being charged with trespassing at the high school his daughter attends.
Both officers were sitting in their patrol cars when separate fatal attacks occurred about 3 kilometers apart. The first officer, 24-year-old Justin Martin, was shot in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale shortly after midnight local time. The second officer, Sgt. Anthony “Tony” Beminio, with the force since 2005, was killed in Des Moines about 20 minutes later.
The police shootings come at a time of increased tension in police-community relations in the U.S., an issue Parizek addressed when speaking with reporters.
"We're very well aware of the society that we're living in right now and the time," Parizek said. "And that there are some not-so-positive views of law enforcement that a segment of our population holds."
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U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch also acknowledged the tension and timing of the killings in a statement Wednesday.
"I know that this is a time of particular tension and mistrust between law enforcement and many communities," she said. "But let me be clear: There is no message in murder."
Lynch denounced the "senseless" killings, saying the Department of Justice has offered assistance to local and state authorities.
Parizek said police in Des Moines will do what they can to keep themselves safe while continuing to respond to calls as usual.
Before Wednesday's shootings in Iowa, 50 police officers were killed on duty by gunfire in the U.S. this year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page website. Two of the fatal shootings were accidental.