Gunman with ‘Grudge’ Kills Officer, Stuns Community

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ATCHISON, Kan. — In December 2011, 2,000 people attended a public memorial for Sgt. David Enzbrenner of Atchison, Kansas. Enzbrenner died while serving a nuisance order at an Atchison home.

The gunman had an apparent police grudge. He also killed himself.

Enzbrenner was a 24-year veteran of the Atchison Police Department. While he was on a call, a bystander unrelated to the call, suddenly approached him and opened fire without warning.

“If you look at all of our officers, he was the best trained, the best educated, the best prepared,” said Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson. “He was the guy that you would want present to make sure that the violence was restricted the best it could.”

In this case, training didn’t matter. Wilson says Enzbrenner did everything right that cold December day.

“What’s changed is when he goes out there everyday, you just don’t know what your going to face because the senseless violence has come to a point where there’s nothing motivating or driven the perpetrator to commit these crimes,” Wilson said.

Enzbrenner died at the hands of a man believed to be hold grudge against law enforcement officers.

“You know our brother David, he took a bullet for what could have went to anybody in the community,” Wilson said. “He took it because he was in uniform and he was out there answering a call as he did hundreds of times every month.”

In the aftermath of Enzbrenner’s death, Wilson’s officers are forced to deal with reality.

“We would like to say that when the officers go out on their calls everyday that that has not affected their mindset, but you know that it has,” he said.

The blue uniform is the target on their back.

“When you put a uniform on, you are in harm’s way,” he said. “It’s happening when officers are on their dinner break, you know. It’s happening when they are in a car writing a report. It’s even happened when they are in their own station.”

Many officers now constantly question if the next person they pull over, the neighbor next door or the old lady watching out the window may want them dead.

“That’s what’s unfortunate about the world we live in today,” Wilson said. “How do you prepare unless you are in a bubble? Police officers definitely can’t be. We have to be out there taking calls everyday and putting ourselves in harm’s way even though we may not know that harm’s way is there.”

Wilson says in their loss, their eyes were opened to a community — even the nation — standing behind them.

“Many times we think it’s us against the world,” he said. “But the world, you know it’s overwhelming of what we have to go out and deal with, but what we found out following this is it’s not us against the world, the world is on our side.”

Cards from every corner of the nation fill the walls of the small police station. Some from people who’ve experienced similar tragedies. Others from the caring public. All from people keeping Atchison in their hearts and minds.

“We know that we have emotions and grief to deal with because of our brother David, but we have a responsibility to protect the community,” Wilson said. “We have to be in the right frame of mind emotionally and in the way law enforcement work is conducted to be able to do that.”

Wilson says he’s closely monitoring each call, making sure his officers aren’t quick to go on defense or be jumpy in every day situations.

“I have found that since this has happened their conduct is still good, of how they are reacting to certain situations,” he said.  “The fact that somebody could be lurking behind us as happened to David, that want to hurt us and we can’t predict it, that’s on the minds of everybody.”

Wilson adds that this tragedy has reaffirmed his officers’ commitment. All are proud to be in uniform and even more proud to assume the role that Sgt. Enzbrenner embodied every day.

“All of our officers are aware of what we are saying here, but yet they come in everyday ready to go,” he said.  “And they don’t blink an eye getting out there knowing that harm’s way is right around the corner.”

The Atchison Police Department answer about 15,000 calls a year.  Since Enzbrenner was killed Wilson, says they’ve been on at least seven calls involving guns and officers handled each one just as they were trained, and all ended without injury.

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