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"Officer Down"

Assault Weapons and the War on Law Enforcement

Section Three: Selected Incidents of Law Enforcement Officers Killed in the Line of Duty by Assault Weapons, 1998 Through 2001

Date: August 3, 2000

Location: San Marcos, Texas

Assault Weapon: Ruger Mini-14 .223 rifle

On August 3, 2000, State Trooper Randall Vetter was killed with a Ruger Mini-14 .223 rifle. Trooper Vetter stopped 72-year-old Melvin Hale for not wearing his seat belt. Hale got out of his car and aimed his rifle at Vetter because he believed the traffic stop violated his constitutional rights. Vetter raised his pistol and ordered him to put down his gun. Hale fired at least twice, hitting Vetter in the head as he sat in his patrol car. Six months earlier, another San Marcos trooper had written a letter warning Hays County law enforcement officers to exercise caution around Hale. The trooper said Hale had threatened him with a rifle when he stopped at Hale's ranch to ask about deer hunting on the 125-acre property. Hale pleaded guilty to the shooting and was sentenced to life in prison.

Jason Spencer, "A Somber Salute for a Fallen Officer," Austin American-Statesman, August 9, 2000; "Trooper's Shooter Gets Life Sentence; 74-year-old Accepted Surprise Plea Agreement as Jury Selection Began," Austin American-Statesman, January 24, 2002.


Each weapon shown is representative of the brand or model of assault weapon and is not a picture of the specific weapon used in the shooting described in the narrative.

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  All contents � 2003 Violence Policy Center


The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.