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"No Opportunity for these Officers to Defend Themselves" in Early-Morning Attack

Police in Des Moines and Urbandale says two officers killed in ambush-style attacks this morning were likely shot before they saw their assailant.

Urbandale Officer Justin Martin, who has been with the department for about 15 months, and Des Moines Police Sgt. Anthony Beminio were killed in separate attacks, about two miles and 20-minutes apart, while sitting in their patrol cars early this morning.

“What we can tell by looking at the scene, is that it doesn’t appear that either officer had an opportunity to interact with the suspect,” said Des Moines Police spokesman, Sgt. Paul Parizek.  “It doesn’t look like there was an exchange of conversation. There definitely wasn’t an opportunity for these officers to defend themselves or respond to the attack.”

Martin was shot shortly after 1:00 am while at the intersection of 70th St. and Aurora Av., across from Urbandale High School.  Russell Cheatem lives across the street, and witnessed the attack.

“I was laying down, I heard gunfire, pow pow pow,” he recalled. “I jumped up as soon as I heard that I looked out the window, when I looked out the window I see a guy standing at the window at the police car, but he’s kind of looking like he’s talking to the police.”

Cheatem called police and a short time later, heard more rapid-fire gun shots, which he says was likely the attack on Sgt. Beminio, less than two miles away at Merle Hay Rd. and Sheridan Av.

Police say several unspecified leads that they learned of in the hours after the shooting led them to name 46-year-old Scott Michael Greene or Urbandale as a suspect.  They released a photo, description, and license plate number for his vehicle.  By 9:30 this morning, police say Greene had been apprehended.

Sgt. Parizek says Greene turned himself in to a state DNR employee along a gravel road south of Redfield in Dallas County. Parizek says Greene flagged down the worker, presented his ID and asked the state worker to call 911.

“Mr. Greene was taken into custody without incident,” Parizek said. “He did complain of some kind of flair up of an existing medical condition so he was taken to the hospital, just as a precaution.

This afternoon, Parizek said police were still waiting to speak to Greene, and that he hadn’t been charged yet.

Urbandale Chief Ross McCarty says Greene is known to his officers, who have had a number of interactions with him in recent years.  A couple of weeks ago, police removed him from an Urbandale High football game after reports he waved a confederate flag in front of a section of the stands where some African-Americans were sitting.

Both officers graduated from Simpson College’s criminal justice program: Beminio in 2001, and Martin last year.

Justin Martin was a native of Rockwell City. Urbandale Chief McCarty says Martin had recently completed a probationary period on the force.

“At the end of the summer on August 22nd, we released him from probation and turned him to a one-man unit with full civil service rights to the city,” McCarty said. “We had high expectations of his future and it has tragically been cut very short here.”

Des Moines Sgt. Tony Beminio has worked for the department since 2005, and a few years ago served as a resource officer at the city’s Roosevelt High School.  The school’s principal Kevin Biggs remembered Beminio for the way he treated students.

“He would walk the halls and kids would come up to him and shake his hand and they had a great deal of respect for him as a human being and for what he stood for, and the freedoms he provided them. It was just a wonderful relationship,” Biggs said.

Throughout the day, people left flowers and cards at the two shooting sites, as well as at the Des Moines and Urbandale Police headquarters.

After the shootings, Des Moines police officers were ordered to patrol in pairs as a safety precaution.  Sgt. Parizek says this won’t likely be a long-term change.

“In Des Moines we have a mix of one and two officer units,” he said. “ If we put them all in two officer units, we’re going to kind of diminish our presence within the city.  We don’t want to neglect one place to take care of another.  We look at our number and will see how that’s going to play out, but I don’t know it will continue for a long time.”

Parizek says officials are relieved the suspect was caught so quickly and without further incident.

“We got through this investigation fast because this is what we do, and we do it well,” he said. “But we are very relieved right now that he is in custody and that there were no other police officers or civilians hurt in this incident.”

Michael Leland is IPR's News Director
Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.