Police in Des Moines and Urbandale are shocked by the deaths of two of their own. They were fatally shot while they were in their patrol cars.


Journalism school teaches people learning my trade that you’re supposed to show the story, rather than tell it.

But when the news is as bad as it was Wednesday morning, you don’t really want to see it. You don’t want to imagine it.

Because if you do, it hurts too damn much.

In the span of 20 minutes, a man ambushed two metro-area police officers for reasons that may never be known.

The horror began shortly after 1 a.m., when Urbandale police responded to a report of gunfire near 70th Street and Aurora Avenue.

That gunfire turned out to be a hail of bullets that riddled the police car driven by Urbandale Officer Justin Martin.

Martin died at the scene. I can’t show you that scene. And, really, you can thank God for that.


Urbandale police Chief Ross McCarty said that Justin Martin recently joined the force. Martin's vehicle received at least 15 rounds of gunfire during a fatal ambush Nov. 2, 2016.

Urbandale police officers saw it, and they will carry those horrible images with them for the rest of their lives. They arrived to find their friend, colleague and brother shot to pieces for no apparent reason other than he was a man who wore a badge and upheld the law.

About 20 minutes later, Des Moines police found one of their own, Sgt. Tony Beminio, ambushed and mortally wounded near Merle Hay Road and Sheridan Avenue.

Medics rushed him to Iowa Methodist Medical Center, where he died from multiple gunshot wounds.


Des Moines Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Parizek spoke about sergeant Tony Beminio Nov. 2, 2016, after the police officer and an Urbandale police officer were ambushed and killed.

Wednesday was barely 90 minutes old, and the lives of two of our protectors were extinguished, and scores more lives were changed forever.

Beminio was 38, a married father of three. He worked for the Indianola Police Department before being hired in Des Moines.

He was a school resource officer at Roosevelt and East high schools, then returned to overnight patrol. Students, teachers, staff members and, of course, his family mourn his senseless execution.

Martin was 24, with just more than a year on the job. He was a Rockwell City native whose parents got a knock on their door in the dark of the morning, when the news that arrives is seldom good.

Also consider the Westcom dispatchers who handle 911 calls for the western suburbs and coordinated the response.

A friend tells me about half of the dispatchers working Wednesday morning also were working in March, when Des Moines Police Officers Carlos Puente-Morales and Susan Farrell were killed in a head-on collision by a drunken driver going the wrong way on Interstate 80.

How, under that strain, they maintain composure and keep taking calls from people who need help is beyond my understanding. We can only be eternally grateful that they do.

Here’s what I can show you: Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek, the department’s public information officer.

His was the first face I saw when I arrived at police headquarters about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, a half-hour after he sent the initial news release alerting the public of the shooting deaths.


Sergeant Paul Parizek, of the Des Moines Police Department talks about the death of two metro area police officers during a news conference on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, in Des Moines.

He had the brim of his uniform cap pulled down nearly to his eyebrows, casting a shadow across his face. But I could see the road map of red veins in his eyes.

He greeted me warmly, but somberly.

Journalism school teaches people learning my trade that you’re supposed to maintain a certain distance from the people and events you write about. But I hugged Paul Parizek. I told him I was sorry.

They are such small words for such terrible grief, but they are all we have.

I was not a newsman in the moment, and Parizek was not a police officer I covered. We were just two human beings who suffered inexplicable loss.

Because there also was a third casualty Wednesday: our sense of community.

Intellectually, we understand that ambush assassinations of police officers can happen anywhere, just as they have in Dallas, Baton Rouge, La., and too many other places to list.

But it is not until blood is spilled and lives are lost in our own community that we truly understand the terrible reality.

I did my best to tell people what was going on, but the truth is, there’s no making sense of it.

I have preached forgiveness and compassion in these paragraphs before, but I do not feel that toward the accused this day. I am angry, and I will have to work hard to find mercy.

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I looked briefly at social media and quickly looked away.

One woman tweeted to me that she had no sympathy for the police killed. Another bemoaned that the suspect in the case, a white man, was captured alive, suggesting, I guess, that police would have killed a suspect who was black. The commentary on this newspaper’s website was so vile that editors took the rare step of shutting off the story chat.

What have we become? How can we be so grossly divided, so cruel that we cannot respect the basic human dignity of the loss we suffered Wednesday?

How you can help:

I met my friend Dana Wingert, the Des Moines police chief. I hugged him, too. For the third time in a year, he must prepare a eulogy for an officer killed in the line of duty, this time as the result of extreme violence.

His steely blue eyes appeared numb and lost as we talked.

“It has to get easier,” he said, though the words sounded more like a question. “There can’t be another year as bad as this one.”

I hoped he was right, I said, but I had no confidence in my words.

All I know for sure is this: People will still call 911 for help, and the men and women behind the badges in Urbandale and Des Moines will still come running.

Daniel P. FinneyThe Register's Metro Voice columnist, is a Drake University alumnus who grew up in Winterset and east Des Moines. Reach him at 515-284-8144 or Twitter: @newsmanone.


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