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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: May 29, 1998

Location: Cortez, Colorado

Assault Weapon: SKS 7.62mm rifle

On May 29, 1998, one police officer was killed and two were wounded with an SKS 7.62mm rifle. Officer Dale Claxton stopped a truck that had been reported stolen the day before. As Officer Claxton was checking the stolen truck's license plate, a passenger in the truck fired approximately 40 rounds through the front of Claxton's police cruiser. Montezuma County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Bishop responded to the radio call of an officer being shot, and was wounded as his cruiser was hit with approximately 40 more rounds from the SKS. Minutes later, Deputy Todd Martin was wounded in the left arm and right leg. The three suspects, described by authorities as "anti-government, end-of-the-world-fearing survivalists," escaped into Colorado. Two of the suspects were later found dead, while the third, Jason Wayne McVean, is still at large.

Greg Burton, "Posse Scours Badlands for 3 Cop Killers," Salt Lake Tribune, May 31, 1998; Julie Cart, "Answers Vanished Along With Four Corners Outlaw," Los Angeles Times, November 24, 1999.


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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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.