129 Law Enforcement Officers Lost Their Lives In The Line-Of-Duty In 2021: FBI

August 12, 2022

By a Biometrica staffer

On Thursday, Aug. 11, an armed man clad in body armor tried to breach the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) Cincinnati office. The confrontation that ensued between him and law enforcement officers (LEOs) came as officials warned of an increase in threats against federal agents in the days following a search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, the Associated Press reported.

After an hourslong standoff, the man who tried to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati office was shot and killed by police. “Unfounded attacks on the integrity of the FBI erode respect for the rule of law and are a grave disservice to the men and women who sacrifice so much to protect others. Violence and threats against law enforcement, including the FBI, are dangerous and should be deeply concerning to all Americans,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement on Thursday.

Only on Monday, Aug. 8, people familiar with the matter told the press that the FBI searched Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence.

The political impact and debates aside, at this juncture we wanted to highlight a crucial statistic: the number of LEO deaths that occur in the line of duty.

In 2021, 129 law enforcement officers were killed in line-of-duty incidents, according to the FBI’s most recent data, which was published in May. This number includes the number of officers who died in the line of duty as a result of a) felonious acts b) accidents. Last year, 73 officers died as a result of felonious acts, and 56 officers died in accidents, per the FBI data.

Felony Deaths Spiked Near-60% In 2021

The 73 officers who were killed feloniously is a near 60% spike from the number of officers who lost their lives in a similar manner in 2020. These felonious deaths of LEOs occurred in 28 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The average age of the officers who were feloniously killed was 39 years old. The victim officers had served in law enforcement for an average of 12 years at the times of the fatal incidents. Law enforcement agencies identified 66 alleged assailants in connection with the felonious line-of-duty deaths.

Of those 73 officers, 24 were killed in unprovoked attacks. Offenders used firearms to kill 61 of the 73 victim officers. When it comes to the type of firearm used to kill these 61 officers, 15 were slain using handguns, 11 with rifles, and 2 with shotguns. In the remaining 33 (of 61) cases, the type of firearm used was either unknown or not reported. These 61 officers aside, of the 73 totally killed feloniously in 2021, 6 officers were killed with vehicles used as weapons. Four officers were killed by the offender’s use of personal weapons (hand, fists, feet, etc.).

Accidental Deaths In 2021

Fifty-six law enforcement officers were killed accidentally while performing their duties in 2021, an increase of 10 when compared with the 46 officers accidentally killed in 2020, per the FBI.

The majority (32 officers) were killed in motor vehicle crashes. Of the 30 officers killed in motor vehicle crashes (not including ATVs and motorcycles), 7 were wearing seatbelts, and 5 were not. Data about seatbelt usage was not reported for 18 of the officers.

The average age of officers who were accidentally killed in the line of duty in 2021 was 40 years old; the average number of years the victim officers had served in law enforcement was 10. 

Other portions of the FBI’s LEOKA datasets will be released in the fall.


Meanwhile, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) compiles its own set of data on LEO line-of-duty deaths. Each year prior to National Police Week, the names of the fallen are engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

When the Memorial was dedicated in 1991, it honored 12,561 officers who died in the line of duty. An average of almost 350 recent and historical fallen officers have been added to the sacred walls of the Memorial every year since, the NLEOMF 2021 annual report says.

With the addition of 394 names in 2021 and an additional 619 added on the date of the publication of this report, the Memorial now contains the names of 23,229 officers who have died in the line of duty.

Those names include officers who have given their lives as a result of shootings, traffic crashes, or deaths as a result of a medical condition contracted while on the job, such as Covid-19 and rare cancers contracted from helping with rescue and recovery operations in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.

There were 472 officers killed in the line of duty (under one of the various circumstances mentioned in the previous para) in 2021, according to the NLEOMF 2021 annual report. Of those, 319 were due to Covid-19, 59 were firearms related, 54 were traffic related, and another 40 were classified as others.