(CNN) — Two Iowa police officers were found fatally shot in their squad vehicles at separate intersections near Des Moines early Wednesday, and police are urgently hunting for whoever killed them.
“There is a clear and present danger to police officers right now,” an emotional Des Moines police Sgt. Paul Parizek told reporters.
Police began discovering the killings around 1:05 a.m., when someone reported shots being fired. Responding officers found the body of an Urbandale police officer, still seated in his squad car, at an Urbandale intersection just northwest of Des Moines, Parizek said.
Twenty minutes later, as officers were responding to the Urbandale shooting, an officer found a Des Moines police officer shot at an intersection in Des Moines, about 2 miles southeast of the first scene.
That wounded officer — who, like the Urbandale officer, was seated in his vehicle — later died at a hospital, Parizek said.
“On the surface right now … it doesn’t look like there was any interaction between these officers and whoever the coward is that shot them while they sat in their cars,” Parizek said, holding back tears.
“In all appearances it looks … that these officers were ambushed,” he added.
No suspects have been named.
“There is clearly danger if you’re a police officer. These guys were gunned down sitting in their car, doing nothing wrong. So, there’s definitely some danger out there. There’s somebody out there shooting police officers. We hope we find him before anybody else gets hurt.”
The officers’ names weren’t released.
Third Des Moines officer to die this year
The slain Des Moines officer is the third in that city to die in the line of duty this year. Two Des Moines officers — Susan Farrell and Carlos Puente Morales — were killed March 26 when their vehicle was hit head-on by a driver going the wrong way, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
“I don’t even know where to begin, how bad this year is,” Parizek said, after a reporter asked him how officers can prepare to do their jobs amid another tragedy. “This is what we do. We come in, day in, day out. We go out there and we provide the same level of service regardless of what’s going on in our personal or professional lives.”
“We know we’ve got the best community. We saw that after Carlos and Susan were killed, and I certainly expect we’re going to see the same thing coming,” he said.
The Urbandale Police Department, a force of about 50 officers, said it believes this is the first officer it has lost in the line of duty.
“An attack on public safety officers is an attack on the public safety of all Iowans,” said Ben Hammes, spokesman for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. “We call on Iowans to support our law enforcement officials in bringing this suspect to justice.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the police officers who were tragically killed in the line of duty as well as the officers who continue to put themselves in harm’s way.”