No. 1 story of 2016: Seven midstate law enforcement officers killed in line of duty

The danger inherent in police work was never more evident than in 2016.

Law enforcement deaths across Georgia have tripled over the last two years, with seven on-duty deaths in Middle Georgia alone this year.

The deaths came at a time when tensions between police and the public were on the rise nationwide, and while many people were fearful and suspicious of police, others made a point to show extra support for law enforcement.

The deaths — six of them by gunfire — reminded residents anew of the courage and selflessness that officers bring to the job every day.

The following Middle Georgia officers were killed in the line of duty in 2016:

▪ Bibb County sheriff’s deputy TJ Freeman was killed in a May crash while helping chase a suspect.

▪ Eastman police officer Tim Smith was shot to death in August after answering a call about a man with a gun.

▪ Peach County deputies Sgt. Patrick Sondron and Daryl Smallwood were shot and killed in November when they went to a man’s house to investigate a neighbors’ dispute.

▪ Pat Carothers, a U.S. marshal based in Macon, was shot and killed in November while helping serve a warrant in Long County.

▪ Americus police officer Ryan Smarr and Georgia Southwestern campus policeman Jody Smith were shot and killed in December while responding to a call about a domestic dispute.

Jennifer Burk: 478-744-4345, @jennburk