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The Simpsonian

Two Simpson College graduates killed in ‘ambush-style’ attacks

Suspect identified as Scott Greene, 46, of Urbandale

by Alex Kirkpatrick, Digital Editor

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Des Moines and Urbandale police departments have identified two officers shot and killed early Wednesday in what authorities are calling ambush-style attacks.

Des Moines police Sgt. Anthony “Tony” Beminio, 38, and Urbandale police Officer Justin Martin, 24, were the officers killed, Des Moines police spokesperson Paul Parizek said as he choked back tears at a press conference.

Both officers were graduates of Simpson College, The Simpsonian has confirmed. Beminio and Martin graduated from Simpson in 2001 and 2015, respectively, according to a news release.

Central Iowans laid wreaths, flowers and memorabilia on a squad car, paying tribute to fallen officers Sgt. Tony Beminio and Officer Justin Martin, who were slain early Wednesday in ambush-style attacks. (Photo: Austin Hronich/The Simpsonian)

Central Iowans laid flowers, flags  and memorabilia on a squad car, paying tribute to fallen officers Sgt. Tony Beminio and Officer Justin Martin, who were slain early Wednesday in ambush-style attacks. (Photo: Austin Hronich/The Simpsonian)

THE SHOOTING

Parizek said the first shooting happened shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday at the intersection of 70th Street and Aurora Avenue.

About 20 minutes later, an officer was sent to Merle Hay Road and Sheridan Avenue approximately 2 miles away in Urbandale, and was shot. He was taken to Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, where he died shortly thereafter.

Both officers appeared to have been shot while sitting in their cars, Parizek said.

“It doesn’t look like there was any interaction between these officers and whomever the coward is who shot them while they sat in their cars,” Parizek said. “There is clearly a danger if you’re a police officer. These officers were gunned down sitting in their cars doing nothing wrong, so there’s definitely some danger out there. There’s somebody out there shooting police officers. We definitely don’t want anyone in the public or the community to get hurt.”

Urbandale police Chief Ross McCarty said the suspect, Scott Michael Greene, 46, of Urbandale, walked up to Martin’s squad car and fired 15 to 30 shots into the driver’s side of the vehicle.

“The puzzling thing about this is that (Officer Martin) didn’t have any idea or warning or fear that anything was wrong,” said McCarty, adding that Martin appeared to be stopped in his vehicle. “We’re assuming (Greene) walked up on foot.”

Law enforcement officials said this is the first Urbandale police shooting of which they are aware.

“Yesterday was probably one of the darkest days in central Iowa in regards to law enforcement,” said Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert at a press conference a day after the tragic shootings, referring to Greene as a monster. “The horrific events that took place are not typical for our communities. … What happened yesterday was calculated murder of two law enforcement officers. Plain and simple, that’s the reality.”

THE VICTIMS

Simpson College faculty members said Martin was determined to become a police officer as soon as he graduated from Rockwell-City-Lytton High School. While a Simpson student, Martin obtained an internship with the Urbandale Police Officer and was offered a full-time position upon graduation and joined the Urbandale Police Department in 2015.

“We were very fortunate to hire a good young man,” McCarty said. “We had high expectations of his future, and it has very tragically been cut short here.”

Urbandale police Officer Justin Martin

Urbandale police Officer Justin Martin

“He was a kind, gentle, compassionate man who was always concerned with serving the public,” said Fred Jones, a longtime professor of sociology and criminal justice at Simpson. “That’s why he went into police work. He was smart and had great social skills. He just had it all.”

Senior Hannah D’Hondt, a close friend of Martin, told The Simpsonian: “Justin was one of my best friends. He was someone I could always rely on for a good laugh. He was an amazing person and cop.”

“All he wanted to do was help people,” she said. “I will always remember his sick dance moves and great jokes. This is one loss that is going to be hard to get over.”

Beminio had served with the Des Moines Police Department since 2005.

He played football at Simpson and was a former member of the Indianola Police Department.

Parizek said Beminio was married with children.

“He had some service at another local police department prior to that. He was promoted last year. Great guy in this department, a good friend to a lot of us, a fantastic family man. It’s just really hard to lose Tony,” Parizek said.

Beminio was a resource officer with Roosevelt and East high schools in Des Moines.

“Tony was the kind of man who should be a cop,” said Lora Friedrich, former chair of the sociology and criminal justice department and Beminio’s adviser at Simpson. “He never met a stranger. He was open-minded and kind and fair. The world lost a great man today.”

Friedrich said Beminio transferred to Simpson as a newlywed with a baby on the way. He and his wife, Zoe, celebrated an anniversary last week.

TRIBUTES

After news of the officers’ deaths rippled across the nation, Simpson College President Jay Simmons addressed the attacks, calling it a “senseless act of tragedy.”

“This is almost too much to bear,” Simmons said. “We all extend our deepest sympathy to the families of Anthony and Justin. We consider them part of our family, too.”

Central Iowans have been bringing flowers, notes, food and memorabilia to sites in Des Moines and Urbandale, where the two officers were gunned down.

In Urbandale, a woman brought water and food to an officer and offered him a hug in an emotional moment. The video posted by KCCI has been viewed more than 11.5 million times.

A memorial has been set up in front of the Urbandale and Des Moines police stations.

Hy-Vee announced it would collect customers’ donations to benefit the fallen officers’ families. To supplement donations, the West Des Moines-based company will give $25,000 to each officer’s family.

Donations can be accepted at the entrances of all Des Moines-area locations through Sunday. Employees will receive donations at the tables from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Outside of these hours, donations can be brought to the customer service counter.

Simpson College chaplain Mara Bailey sent out an email to the student body, saying: “In times like this, it is especially important to gather in the midst of our grief, sadness, and questioning and support one another. Keep sharing love with one another. Our world really needs it.”

Bailey added that there are counseling services available for those who might need it. They are asked to contact counseling services at 515-961-1556, or Bailey at 515-961-1610 or 515-240-2180.

The Simpson College Religious Life Community held a gathering and time of prayer for people who feel affected by the events. The event started at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Smith Chapel.

Simpson College students gathered at Smith Chapel Wednesday evening -- less than 24 hours from the time Beminio and Martin were gunned down. (Photo: Jayde Vogeler, Photography Editor/The Simpsonian)

Simpson College students gathered at Smith Chapel Wednesday evening — less than 24 hours from the time Beminio and Martin were gunned down. (Photo: Jayde Vogeler, Photography Editor/The Simpsonian)

The Simpson wrestling team will wear blue socks to honor the officers at its meet Thursday.

Des Moines police have warned those who want to help families of the fallen officers not to donate online at GoFundMe.com because the accounts have not been verified by officials or friends and family.

The official funds have been set up through the Urbandale Police Protective Benevolent Association and The Des Moines Officer Burial Associates. The link can be found at https://squareup.com/store/des-moines-police-officers-credit-union.

Donations can also be made in each officers’ name online at The Des Moines Police Officers’ Credit Union at 423 East Court Ave., Des Moines, IA 50309.

THE SUSPECT

Iowa State Patrol officials were able to detain Scott Michael Greene, 46, of Urbandale, who was believed to be armed and considered dangerous.

(Photo: Des Moines Police Department)

(Photo: Des Moines Police Department)

Dallas County authorities and the Iowa State Patrol were able to take Greene into custody without incident. He was transported to Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines after he suffered a flare-up of a pre-existing medical condition.

Greene was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Police said the investigation has produced probable cause to support these charges. He was arrested with the handcuffs that belonged to Beminio and Martin. No additional information could be given at this time.

Police said Greene will be transported to the Polk County Jail on Thursday.

According to online court records, Greene has been arrested numerous times, though details of the cases were not immediately available, and charged with domestic assault, assault causing bodily injury and fourth-degree criminal mischief in 2001; driving under the influence in 2010; and first-degree harassment in 2014.

A video has surfaced allegedly showing Greene in a confrontation with police before he was kicked out of the Urbandale High School football stadium a couple of weeks ago. The 10-minute encounter happened after he claimed that spectators stole a Confederate flag he had brought to a football game.

REACTION

The tragedy has sparked nationwide response, including President Barack Obama, who released a statement saying that the victims represented “our best, most decent instincts as human beings —to serve our neighbors put ourselves in harm’s way for someone else.”

“They knew the dangers of their job,” Obama said. “They knew the risks. Yet they chose to dedicate themselves to those values anyway. … “So as Americans, we owe them our respect and gratitude for their efforts to safeguard our families and our communities. And so as we once again mourn American police officers lost in the line of duty, we must also renew the call to match that same sense of service, that same devotion within our own lives and our own communities.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tweeted: “Praying for the families of the two Iowa police who were ambushed this morning. An attack on those who keep us safe is an attack on us all.”

After Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds learned of the attacks, they released a joint statement saying that an attack on public safety officers is an attack on the public safety of all Iowans.

“We call on Iowans to support our law enforcement officials in bringing this suspect to justice,” the statement reads. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the police officers who were tragically killed in the line of duty as well as the officers who continue to put themselves in harm’s way.”

Iowa’s two Republican senators also expressed their condolences.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the two Iowa police officers who were killed in the line of duty, as well as their families and the entire Iowa law enforcement community as they face this devastating loss,” Sen. Joni Ernst said. “Although the investigation is still unfolding, what appears to be an ambush attack of police in the line of duty is an attack on the community at large and all of the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect us. This was a senseless act of violence and it cannot be tolerated.”

Added Sen. Charles Grassley: “Barbara and I are praying for the families, fellow officers and loved ones of two of Iowa’s finest today. These officers were killed in what appears to be an unprovoked and cold-blooded act.

“Every day, our law enforcement officers go to work to keep us safe. No matter the circumstances, they answer the call in communities across Iowa. We all keep the officers in Des Moines, Urbandale and throughout Iowa in our thoughts as they respond to an ongoing dangerous situation.”

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