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Killings stir memories for deputy who lost partner

Matt Hanlin's partner, David White, was killed in line of duty in 2012

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – It's been a heartbreaking weekend for law enforcement after three officers -- two in Brooklyn, New York, and one in Tarpon Springs, Florida -- were shot and killed.

The two officers in New York were shot point blank Saturday while sitting in their cruiser. The officer in Tarpon Springs was shot after responding to a domestic dispute.

Both situations sparked memories for one Clay County deputy, whose partner was shot and killed in 2012.

Matt Hanlin and his Clay County Sheriff's Office partner, David White, were investigating a meth lab at a home in Clay County. Hanlin said when they got to the front door, the people inside began shooting. White was killed in the line of duty. Hanlin was shot in the arm but lived. He said getting through the last few years has been tough, but C.O.P.S. has helped.

C.O.P.S. -- Concerns of Police Survivors -- is a national support group for co-workers and family members of officers killed in the line of duty. The group started in 1984 with around 100 members and has grown to include more than 30,000 families.

"It's sad, and it's great at the same time," Hanlin said.

On average, according to Hanlin, between 140 to 160 officers are killed each year. After White was killed in 2012, C.O.P.S. reached out to Hanlin to lend a helping hand.

"I didn't want to go, I didn't want to be a part of it, but once I was pressured into going to the co-workers retreat, which is the retreat for co-workers of fallen officers, it really opens your eyes to exactly what their programs do and what they're there for," Hanlin said.

He said the three-day retreat did more for him than years of local therapy could do. That's because he was surrounded by other officers, who had been in the field and knew what he'd gone through.

Hanlin believes in the group's mission so much he recently became the president of the local C.O.P.S. chapter.

Hanlin said the targeted shootings of two police officers in Brooklyn have set a new low.

"You go out fighting crime per say, every day and every night, and tragic accidents happen, but when you're targeted specifically for being a police officer, it kind of puts a different light on everything," Hanlin said. "If anything, it adds more resolve to your commitment to your community. If everybody got scared about it and backed down, we would live in a state of lawlessness."

Hanlin also talked about the stigma surrounding officers in the country right now. He said officers join the force to serve and protect citizens.  

"Nobody get's into this profession looking to take someone's life, whether they're black, white, Asian, Hispanic, you know," Hanlin said.

C.O.P.S. supports thousands of families and co-workers around the country. 

To donate to the cause, go to http://nationalcops.org/support.asp.