HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Fallen Houston police officer William "Bill" Jeffrey has been added to the growing list of law enforcement officers killed across the country this year.
Data from the FBI's Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted Data Collection shows that 52 officers have been killed in the line of duty in 2021 so far.
Twenty of the deaths are classified as "unprovoked." That number is up from 37 for the same time period in 2020. A map indicating where the killings happened shows the "southern" region has the highest number with a total of 27.
The region includes Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina.
"I have never seen anything like this," said Mark Stephens, a former HPD officer. "Even in the 80s, when we had what we thought were high crime rates, it was never like this."
Stephens said when he heard about the shooting death of Jeffrey and wounding of Sgt. Michael Vance, he felt "pure anger."
The two were part of a six-person team who showed up to a northeast Harris County apartment to arrest 30-year-old Deon Ledet on an outstanding warrant for a narcotics charge
Police Chief Troy Finner said the suspect's girlfriend answered the door. Shortly after, he said the suspect came out and immediately started firing at the officers.
Officers returned fire and killed Ledet.
Jeffrey was taken to the hospital where he died. Vance remains hospitalized, but HPD said he is doing well and has a good prognosis for recovery.
Stephens got emotional when asked about officer deaths. He said law enforcement officers are simply trying to do their jobs and protect their community.
"I've seen my fellow officers laying in their own blood and it's not anything anybody should see," he said.