A white man with a history of racial provocations and confrontations with police ambushed and fatally shot two white Des Moines-area officers in separate attacks Wednesday as they sat in their patrol cars, authorities said.
Police took 46-year-old Scott Michael Greene into custody hours after the killings and less than three weeks after he argued with officers who removed him from a high school football game where he had unfurled a Confederate flag near black spectators.
Greene flagged down a state Department of Natural Resources employee in a rural area west of Des Moines, identified himself and asked that the employee call 911. Sheriff's deputies and state patrol officers responded and took him into custody.
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He's suspected in the early morning slayings of 24-year-old Justin Martin, who had been with the force in the suburb of Urbandale since 2015, and 39-year-old Sgt. Anthony Beminio, who joined the Des Moines department in 2005.
The first officer was found dead at around 1:06 a.m. CT in Urbandale, a suburb of the Iowa city which has its own force, police said in a statement. The second officer's body was located in Des Moines at 1:26 a.m., it added.
The shootings happened less than 2 miles apart, and both took place along main streets that cut through residential areas. The officer died shortly after being taken to hospital.
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Police said during a news conference that they were not aware that the suspect has a criminal record, though Iowa corrections records show Greene was twice on probation for serious misdemeanors. The probations ended in 1992 and 2015.
Court records show Greene was jailed and charged with interference with official acts after resisting Urbandale police officers trying to pat him for a weapon on April 10, 2014. An Urbandale officer described him as hostile and combative. He entered a guilty plea and was fined.
Two days later Urbandale police were called to answer a complaint of harassment at the apartment complex where Greene lived. The complaint said he threatened to kill another man during a confrontation in the parking lot. He was charged with harassment.
He pleaded guilty and received a suspended jail sentence and a year of probation. Court records show he completed a substance abuse and psychological evaluation.
Greene was taken into custody by the Dallas County Sheriff's Office, police said at about 10:30 a.m. Dallas County is immediately west of Polk County, where Des Moines and Urbandale are located. Officials plan to take Greene back to the Des Moines Police Department for further questioning, Scott said.
Parizek, who stopped briefly during a news conference as he worked to control his emotions, also said the shootings left a pall over the department.
"Imagine that you lost a friend or family member," Parizek said. "That's the only way I can describe it."
He said, "these were our friends. These were our co-workers."
The shootings follow a spate of police killings, including ambushes of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Five officers were killed in Dallas on July 7 and three were killed later that month in Baton Rouge.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a Veteran's Day ceremony Wednesday that the Justice Department will support state and local authorities as they investigate the killings.
"This tragic incident is yet another reminder of the tremendous dangers that law enforcement officers face each and every day," Lynch said. "The men and women in law enforcement deserve our gratitude and our respect. And more than that, they deserve our support."
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both expressed support for the victims' families on Twitter.
Urbandale Sgt. Chad Underwood said he believes this is the first time an officer in his department has been shot in the line of duty, while Wednesday marked the first time a Des Moines police officer has been shot and killed on duty since 1977, when two died in separate incidents months apart, according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
"Des Moines is not a big city. We all know each other. We're heartbroken. There's really no words at times like this," Parizek said.