Cop Killer

"You see Jules shot an off-duty rookie last year. 24 years old. Kid had a baby on the way. But good drug dealers can afford good lawyers, so Jules walked. I had been tracking him for weeks, just waiting to get the guy alone. And there he was, walking out of a bodega, with not a care in the world. No protection either. He saw me. He knew why I was there. I could see it in his eyes. So I smiled at him. Just before I put two in his chest. ... Guy got what he deserved, and you want to know how I've been sleeping? Like a baby."
Detective Lionel Fusco to a police psychiatrist, "The Devil's Share", Person of Interest

A staple of the Criminal Procedural when the writers want to create a "This Time It's Personal" episode. Pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin: a criminal kills a cop and the dead officer's colleagues have to avenge him. These episodes frequently end with Police Brutality, as cop killing is a rather serious business. When the cops find the cop killer, they don't treat him very well. Not to mention that they're more likely to have "accidents" or be "driven to suicide" at some point between arrest, trial, and imprisonment.

If the criminal is purposely going after cops who previously arrested him, this can overlap with Rage Against The Legal System. Other times, cops may be killed in the line of duty by trigger-happy criminals. Of course, they're in particular danger if they're three days away from retirement.

The inverse of Killer Cop, a cop who is a murderer, although in some cases they do overlap. See also Police Brutality and Pay Evil unto Evil, possible reactions by the police when they find the cop killer.

No Real Life Examples, please. We all know this happens in real life; there is no need to go into specifics.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • This was a subplot in Darker Than Black when Huang's old public security partner Isozaki was killed by Shihoko Kishida under orders from Syndicate leaders in order to prevent an operation from being compromised. While Huang wanted to get his hands on Shihoko for killing his partner, he couldn't kill her because he fell in love with her.
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, a plainclothes officer working the Laughing Man case was killed in what appears to be a car accident. Until Section 9 learns that the accident was engineered by the bad guys in the first season in order to prevent another investigation of the case.
  • Throughout the Bloody Monday manga, several police officers are killed via virus infection or from shootouts by the bad guys.
  • The assassin squad "Orchestra" in Jormungand are notorious for killing police officers in their line of work.
  • In Jiraishin, it happens a lot with police officers being killed by determined criminals and assassins. The following are examples of police officers being targeted directly as the main plot in various story arcs.
    • Kyoya Iida's first partner, Tsuyoshi Yamaki, is shot to death by an illegal immigrant from China as he tried to stop an assassination attempt at a local bar.
    • Lin Fei, the wife on Taiwanese criminal Fan Tiamin, recruits a Taiwanese hitman to assassinate police officers throughout the Greater Tokyo Area until the Tokyo Metropolitan Police agrees to send the corpse of her sister back to Taipei instead of having it buried in Tokyo since it's against their Taoist beliefs.
    • Narita was gunned down by a hired assassin named Kei Amami near the end of the manga after she received a heart transplant from his deceased daughter. This began to conflict with her mental health that Kei decided to kill those who were close to her to end the "mental torment".
  • Happens in Death Note when Light begins to target law enforcement officers trying to solve the deaths perpetrated by the death note.

    Comic Books 
  • Wrath is an Evil Counterpart of Batman who specialises in murdering law enforcement officials.
  • Sin City: Dwight kills his ex's abusive ex-boyfriend, realizing too late that he's actually a cop. If the body is found, the fragile truce between the corrupt cops and the Band of Brothels will be broken in the cops' favor, so they need to disfigure and get rid of it.
  • Judge Dredd: The Judges of the Mega Cities, considering they have Judge, Jury, and Executioner built into their job, already have the authority to pass out sentences as they wish. However, (attempted) murder of a Judge is considered among the most serious offenses and always carries an instant death penalty.

    Film 
  • L.A. Confidential: An ex-cop is killed at a diner massacre. When the suspects are brought to a holding cell, things eventually fall apart and the cops beat the hell out of them.
  • The Joker is a cop killer in The Dark Knight. He uses the anger this causes among the police force to his advantage.
  • In The Fugitive, Richard Kimble is believed to have killed a Chicago policeman (actually it was the one-armed man). U.S. Marshal Gerard knows that he has to get to Kimble before the Chicago cops do because they will be shooting to kill.
  • The gangsters in Reservoir Dogs kill several police officers during the heist. At the very end of the movie during Mr. Pink's arrest (which can be faintly overheard), the cops angrily yell at him if he's a cop killer after shooting him. Mr. Blonde, who's the most psychopathic of them, is unapologetically sadistic about it when he mutilates the captured officer Marvin Nash.
    Mr. Blonde: It's amusing to me, to torture a cop.
  • The villain's plot in Scanner Cop is to brainwash random people to murder Los Angeles police officers, which he is doing out of revenge for being sent to prison previously.
  • A variation in Prizzi's Honor. While the police are normally totally in the pocket of the mafia, after a policeman's wife is killed during a hit, they call off their special arrangement until the killer is turned in or killed.
  • In The Godfather Michael Corleone has to hide out in Sicily for years to escape retribution for killing a corrupt police captain who was in the pocket of another family.
  • Terminator franchise:
  • Running Scared (1986): Early in the movie a cop is killed by being thrown off a building. Later the protagonists (police detectives Hughes and Costanza) find out that the Big Bad Julio Gonzalez had him murdered, and they go after him.
  • Lethal Weapon 2: The South African government drug dealers assassinate several LAPD police officers to make them back off their investigation. Of course this just makes Riggs and Murtaugh more determined to defeat them. Riggs kills the assassin who killed them, and Murtaugh murders the government official who ordered the hit.
  • In the Steven Seagal B-movie Urban Justice a vice squad detective is murdered on duty. The department is massively corrupt so his special forces-trained father takes the law into his own hands, up to and including killing the Dirty Cop who pulled the trigger barehanded.
  • The Elite Squad: When a bunch of crooks mortally wound an off-duty member of the BOPE (the Brazilian equivalent of SWAT and quite the Badass Army), they have a massive Oh, Crap moment and rush him to the hospital (where he dies anyway). Captain Nascimento, the Memetic Badass Obi Wan/narrator mentions that the crooks are clever to be afraid, because BOPE's reaction to such a death would be a no-holds-barred manhunt... which happens on the third act of the movie, with tortures galore.
  • In New Police Story, Chan Kwok Wing hunts down a group of heavily armed robbers who don't give a second thought about gunning down police officers. The main bad guy, Joe, is motivated to do this because he was physically abused as a child by his police officer father, who had gained a high-ranking position by the time the movie begins.
  • In Drive Angry, Piper killed two policemen who were unknowingly enlisted by the Accountant, posing as an FBI Agent. When the state troopers put up a road block for Piper and Milton, their leader notes that two of their own have been killed and in order to get even instructs the cops to aim for the suspects' heads.
  • S.W.A.T.: Alex Montel never actually pulls the trigger on a cop, but two L.A. County sheriff's deputies, an LAPD helicopter crew, and one SWAT officer die as a result of his actions and the team considers him no better than the people who did pull the triggers. And neither does he, apparently:
    Montel: American greed. It's so reliable.
    Street: SHUT UP! Another officer's dead 'cause you shot your mouth off.
    Montel: That's how I like cops: Dead.
  • Death Warrant: The Sandman has a fondness for killing cops. This drives Burke to hunt him down in the opening for killing his partner, and the other convicts to admire him.
  • Mothra: Clark Nelson, murders a policeman while attempting to escape an enraged Mothra.
  • RoboCop (1987) has Clarence Boddicker, who among his criminal acts (which include robbery, drug dealing, and according to his rap sheet, rape), having killed 32 police officers before killing Alex Murphy. However, his killing Alex comes back to bite him in the ass when Alex is resurrected as the titular cyborg.
  • The plot of 48 Hours is kicked off by pyscho Albert Ganz and his equally vicious partner Billy Bear killing two prison guards to spring Ganz from prison. While hiding out at a hotel, Ganz and Bear ambush and kill two plain clothes detectives, and to show they're not finished with their disdain of law enforcement, later they kill a transit officer in a subway station. One hooker who Ganz roughed up even tells the cops that he seems to like killing cops more then getting laid.
  • Assassins: Miguel Bain is almost casual about blowing away any law enforcement officer who gets in his way. When there's a manhunt underway for Miguel, his rival Robert Rath berates him for being so stupid/psycho to attract attention by killing cops.

    Literature 
  • Discworld has Carcer from Night Watch. He's killed several cops over the course of his career, including at least one who bumped into him by chance while off-duty and didn't even recognize him.
  • Cop Hater is the title of the first 87th Precinct novel. Here, a murderer kills three policemen; as it turns out at the end, the third was the true target, and he only killed the first two to mislead the police into thinking that he's a Serial Killer who targets cops.
  • In Death series: This has happened a few times, and when it does, you can bet that this a considered a Moral Event Horizon for the cops at least and maybe the reader. This happened in books like Ceremony In Death, Survivor In Death, Judgment In Death, Treachery In Death and New York To Dallas.
  • A variation in Prizzi's Honor. While the police are normally totally in the pocket of the mafia, after a policeman's wife is killed during a hit, they call off their special arrangement until the killer is turned in or killed.
  • In the Savannah Reid mysteries, the bad guy in Cooked Goose is a cop killer and a Killer Cop.
  • In the Shadowrun novel Lone Wolf, deep-cover gang investigator Wolf Larson is listed as a Cop Killer as part of his cover identity, to enhance his credibility with the Cutters street gang he's infiltrated. This backfires when he loses contact with his handler and needs to get word to authorities quickly, as he's afraid any other cop he contacts may retaliate against him as soon as they look up his "criminal history".
  • They Talked To A Stranger, an "only the names have been changed to protect the innocent" set of case studies of juvenile delinquents of the 1950s. The first case discussed is of "Moustache", who killed an officer while escaping custody. The police were sympathetic to his situation (Moustache was a non-violent offender whose crime was the result of a string of poor decisions bad luck on both his and the officer's part) but that didn't stop them from pulling out all the stops to capture him. He was scheduled to be released sometime in the 1980s, with good behavior.
  • Acidbath from Worm was a cop and capekiller with the ability to shoot and turn into acid before getting thrown in the Birdcage.
  • "Earthquake", by Damon Runyon: The title character kills a cop in the course of a barfight, then flees New York for New Orleans, then Managua, Nicaragua.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In CSI there are a few notable examples.
    • The Red Shirt who gets killed when Warrick leaves her alone at a crime scene in the pilot.
    • A random officer who's killed outside a burger joint...by another cop who claims it was an accident, but might have had a grudge ( it was dark and said cop was losing his vision).
    • Warrick Brown was killed at the end of a later season by The Undersheriff.
    • Arc Villain "Dr. Jekyll" makes his presence known at the end of his arc by blowing away a Red Shirt cop with a shotgun and severely wounding Nick.
    • A two-episode arc immediately following the "Dr. Jekyll" arc guest-starred Justin Bieber as a part of a sibling team of Right Wing Militia Fanatic Mad Bombers that bombed the cop's funeral and (once the big brother was killed) driving the younger brother into a vendetta against Nick.
  • Due South begins with the murder of a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman in the wilderness of the Northwest Territories. The plot of the pilot episode centers around his son, Benton Fraser (also a Mountie) , teaming up with a Chicago detective to track down the killer after he crosses the border into the United States. It turns out the killer was hired by another Mountie, a close friend of the Frasers, no less.
  • Blue Bloods:
    • Joe Reagan, brother to Danny, Erin, and Jamie, was a patrolman who was killed in the line of duty before the series began. Jamie's unofficial investigation into his death forms season 1's Myth Arc and leads to the unmasking of a Dirty Cop organization in the NYPD.
    • In "Officer Down" a patrol officer is mortally wounded when she blunders into the path of mafia-affiliated diamond thieves while coming back from lunch. The Mafia itself joins in hunting them down, because cop killers put the whole department on edge and make life difficult. Grandpa Henry Reagan remarks that when he was on the force the mafia even had explicit rules that, outside of certain circumstances, cops were off-limits. The killer gets cornered, tries to shoot his way out, and is hosed down with lead by several detectives and an ESU team.
    • In "The Bitter End" Jamie Reagan and his partner Vinny Cruz are lured into a housing project by a Latino gang with a beef against the NYPD. It's an ambush, and Vinny is fatally shot. End of the next episode, what seems like half the NYPD storms the place and makes over 40 arrests on various charges, including Vinny's murder.
    • Used a little oddly in "Above and Beyond". The Teaser opens with reports of a slain detective, and in typical fashion Frank firmly promises the widow to bring the killer to justice. They catch the killer at roughly the twenty-minute mark, however, and then the plot turns into a bit of a lurid look at the double life this detective was leading. Turned out the undercover detective's cover was blown when his wife drunk-dialed a number on the detective's contacts list, thinking it belonged to the other woman, when in fact it was a member of the drug cartel her husband was investigating.
  • From the 1960s Dragnet series:
    • Discussed in one episode. While appearing on a talk show Joe Friday explains to a TV audience that the reason cop killers get such a heavy response from the department isn't just because it's their friend. To paraphrase, if someone's willing to kill a cop, would they hesitate to kill a civilian?
    • In another episode Friday gives the same speech to a store owner when he comments that the police always put more effort into catching someone who has killed a cop than someone who has killed a civilian.
    • In another episode two officers, a rookie and his training officer, are shot apprehending bank robbers, one of whom escapes. The older officer dies shortly after coming out of surgery and, according to the end of the episode, the captured robber was sentenced to death.
  • Criminal Minds has a number of unsubs who've killed cops. The most notable was one in the episode "Brothers in Arms" with an unsub that targets policemen. In another episode, there was a cop-killing unsub who turned out to be a cop himself.
  • The Mentalist had a Serial Killer who targeted police officers as the focus of the episode "Red Moon".
  • In the last few minutes of The Shield's pilot episode, Strike Team newcomer Terry Crowley gets shot in the head by none other than Vic Mackey.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street did this at least twice, with the same twist both times: the cop killer is himself killed shortly afterward, and the unlucky detective assigned to the case finds that nobody cares about justice for a dead cop killer.
    • "End Game" has a racist Smug Snake (played by Steve Buscemi) get away with cop killing and practically brag about it — only to be shot dead in the last few minutes. In the follow up, "Law and Disorder," the detective assigned to solve Buscemi's murder has to admit defeat because no cop will help him.
    • In the "Justice" two-parter, a cop killer is acquitted in court and murdered shortly thereafter. The dead cop's son (played by Bruce Campbell) is suspect number one, but nobody can figure out the evidence trail until one of the detectives casually mentions that Campbell owns a derringer. Da Chief explains that when he was a junior policeman, the Baltimore police always executed cop killers without trial, and usually did it with a derringer (which was easy to dispose of, and couldn't be traced back to the department).
  • In the pilot of Almost Human, InSyndicate attacks the precinct and assassinates LAPD Detective Vogel and another officer using a biological weapon.
  • On Copper a rookie police officer is stabbed to death and the other cops tear though the Five Points neighborhood looking for the killer. When they have no success, the local ward boss, an ex-copper himself, orders the closing of all the local pubs until the killer is found. In a neighborhood populated by Irish immigrants this is extremely Serious Business. The killing was actually a gang initiation intended to make sure that the new member would never dare inform on the gang to the police.
  • CSI: NY:
    • One example is Flack's Love Interest, Angell, who's shot in the season 5 finale while protecting a Donald Trump/Rupert Murdoch expy's son (who was due to testify against him; the killers turn out to be kidnappers, who knew this would put immediate suspicion on their target's father). The episode also ends with the bar they're holding a wake for her in being shot up in a drive-by. Nobody's killed (although Danny ends up in a wheelchair for a while), but it fits the trope in spirit.
    • Aiden also counts, despite no longer being on the team. They were dead set on finding the perp and Danny was willing to beat up the guy he thought did it. Mac's speech in the beginning has a double meaning. He's talking about the dead Marine, being one himself, but it clearly shows with Aiden too. " You attack one, you attack us all.".
    • Mac himself was a variant in the season 8 finale, having been shot In the Back after stumbling into a drug store robbery while off-duty. He only nearly died, but the NYPD's reaction was largely the same as in a straight example.
  • In The Blacklist, the FBI gets into this part when they face off against heavily armed criminals and terrorists, resulting in their deaths.
  • Happens throughout the 24 TV series when local police officers alongside CTU officers are killed by armed terrorists or criminals, serving as Red Shirts.
  • In Tiger Cubs, Senior Inspector Chin Hon-to has to calm his subordinates in the SDU when To Tin-yu and his girlfriend, Yiu Mei-ling, killed one of their own for ruining the latter's face. Inspector Chin reminds his men that if they acts as vigilantes and go after them by themselves instead of using the law, then they'll be nothing more than just a bunch of rogue cops acting outside the law.
  • Person of Interest:
    • After the Dirty Cop organization HR fails at attempting to frame Detective Szymanski as a Dirty Cop in order to curry favor with The Mafiya, their leader, mayor's aide Alonzo Quinn, resorts to shooting both Szymanski and the DA trying the case. Quinn later sics HR on his own godson Detective Beecher after the latter asks the wrong questions about the Szymanski murder.
    • "The Crossing" and "The Devil's Share" form a two-parter with multiple examples.
      • A flashback in "The Devil's Share" shows Fusco unburdening himself to a police shrink that his first on-the-job kill wasn't a good shoot. He had hunted down and murdered a drug dealer who had killed an off-duty rookie and gotten off scot free.
      • At the end of "The Crossing" now-wanted HR member Simmons kills Detective Carter. The next episode there's a city-wide manhunt for him. Unfortunately for Simmons, Team Machine are also looking for him, and Reese in particular isn't inclined to be merciful. After the rest of the team stops Reese, Fusco tracks down Simmons himself and arrests him, openly refusing to kill him in Carter's memory. The Don Carl Elias is not so scrupulous and has him killed in the hospital because he liked Carter.
  • Babylon 5:
    • "The Quality of Mercy" involves a serial killer who has murdered a number of people on the station, including a security officer, for which Garibaldi wants him Thrown Out the Airlock.
    • An odd variation in "Chrysalis" where we get the the typical police reaction without the actual death. Garibaldi is shot In the Back by one of his own men after uncovering a plot to assassinate President Santiago. He doesn't actually die but he's comatose until "Revelations" in season 2. The security man who shot him (who is still above suspicion at the moment) then guns down his co-conspirators in cold blood and claims to the other guards that they took a shot at him. The other guards go along with this, despite the deceased's PPG clearly not having been fired, because it's a fellow cop (their beloved boss) who got shot.
    • "Learning Curve" has Trace, a criminal overlord who brags about how he had heads of security on his last turf killed until he found one he could work with and he's trying to do the same on Babylon 5. A young Ranger gets involved, and since Trace sees them as some kind of law enforcement, he decides to use what he's got. The Ranger survives, barely, but Trace now has the Rangers' personal attention.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Occasionally dealt with; in particular, Alex's first husband was a police officer killed in the line of duty.
  • In Nikita the title character came to Division's attention after she was sentenced to death for killing a cop while high on ketamine. Division faked her execution and brought her to their training facility. The full story is more complicated: The cop was dirty and was threatening her foster mom. Nikita moved to protect her and accidentally shot the cop with his own gun.
  • Happens a lot in Hawaii Five-0 with HPD officers sometime being killed off while supporting Five-0, acting as in the capacity of Red Shirts. Others include FBI and ATF officers, which drives the plot of a few other episodes.
  • Castle:
    • A variation in 'Love Me Dead' where the victim is an A.D.A. rather than a cop. It's treated the same way by the cops at the scene, though.
    • Subverted in 'Almost Famous'. Castle and Beckett respond to an "officer down" call, but it turns out the victim is a male stripper in a police officer costume.
  • Justified: Since protagonist Raylan Givens is a US Marshal, most villains end up as attempted cop killers by default. In Season 3, Raylan's father Arlo Givens becomes the genuine article when he shoots and kills Raylan's friend, State Trooper Tom Bergen, believing him to be Raylan. In Season 5, Boyd Crowder becomes one when he has Sheriff Nick Mooney assassinated—though given that Mooney was deeply corrupt, nobody cares—and Daryl Crowe Jr. narrowly avoids it when he shoots, but fails to kill, Raylan's boss, Art.
  • In The Twilight Zone 2002 episode "Another Life", a rapper keeps waking up to find himself in an interrogation room getting beaten up by enraged cops who accuse him of killing one of them. He protests that he has no idea what is going on, then wakes up and dismisses the events as nightmares. It turns out the events in the interrogation room are really happening and his life as a rich and famous rapper are a dream. The cops eventually beat him into a coma, trapping him in the dream permanently (which he sees as a happy ending). The cops are then informed that the real cop killer was caught, and the protagonist was innocent.
  • The Elementary episode "End of Watch" starts with the murder of an NYPD Highway Patrol officer and the discovery that his sidearm has been replaced with an airsoft gun. The officer had been trading police guns for oxycodone, replacing them with airsoft replicas, and after he tried to quit, the arms dealer killed him in order to use his funeral as a diversion while he robbed the ESU armory.
  • In the first episode of Brooklyn South a guy goes on a shooting spree and kills a bunch of cops right outside the precinct house, then is himself shot and dragged into the house. He dies while waiting for paramedics to show up, and his relatives sue the police force alleging that the cops purposely let him bleed to death in revenge.
  • Witchblade:
    • In the pilot mafia hitman Tony Gallo murders Sara's partner Danny Woo in cold blood in front of her, and she spends the rest of the episode trying to catch him while learning to use the Witchblade. Gallo also killed Sara's father, a beat cop.
    • "Agape":
      • Narcotics detective Dean Gorner gets into it with Sara at a murder scene, claiming that Homicide is dragging its feet on investigating the death of Gorner's partner Torres and taking umbrage. It turns out in the end that Gorner and Torres were Dirty Cops and Gorner himself was the triggerman. He killed Torres for his share of the take.
      • Following on from the above spoiler, a drug kingpin refuses to kill McCarty or Gorner, because "unlike you, I'm not a cop killer." But he's not above leaving them both guns so they'll kill each other. Fortunately Sara and Danny get there in time.

    Music 

    Radio 
  • The Dragnet radio series had an episode where Friday gives the same speech as in the '60s TV series above about why police go after cop killers so hard. It may have adapted the same case.

    Video Games 
  • L.A. Noire. Various side missions feature cop killers.
  • Condemned Criminal Origins has the mass murder the player is following kill two cops at the start.
  • Street Fighter: M. Bison is responsible for murdering Chun-Li's father, who was an Interpol officer.
  • In the first Max Payne game, the titular protagonist's real problems start not when he loses his family but when he is framed for murder of his fellow DEA agent. Gangsters in this game are cannon fodder that die in droves and no one really cares, but one dead officer is serious.
  • In the first Mass Effect, one of the missions on Noveria has you fight through the facility's security force to retrieve incriminating evidence on the corrupt boss of the place. On the way out, you run into the irate sergeant, herself going behind her captain's back, who says, "You know what they do to cop killers on my world?" If Wrex is present, he retorts, "You know what they do to corrupt cops on mine?"
  • Referenced in Shin Megami Tensei IV when the Zombie Cop demon decides to beg for mercy. Never mind that the "cops" you would be killing are already (un)dead.
  • Referenced with the "Cop Killa" bonus (worth 5000 points) in Grand Theft Auto II, which one can get by destroying twenty police cars.

    Webcomics 

Alternative Title(s):

Officer Down