Police Officer Dies After Medical Emergency in Louisiana Heat


A Louisiana police officer working outdoors in the blistering heat radioed for an ambulance to take him to the hospital over the weekend and later died from what his department called a “heat-related medical emergency.”

The officer, Brian Olliff, 52, was providing security on Saturday evening at a street festival in downtown Natchitoches, a city of 17,700 people in the central part of the state, said John Greely, a Police Department spokesman. He had started his shift around 11 a.m., patrolling an apartment complex.

“Knowing Officer Brian, he’s not the kind of person to just sit in a car,” Mr. Greely said. “So he was probably walking for, you know, six or seven hours.”

The high temperature in Natchitoches on Saturday was 98 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. The average for July is in the low 90s.

Those temperatures can make it difficult for the human body to cool down, leading to potential heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Police officers working outside tend to be even more at risk because of the layers of gear they carry and the thick polyester of their uniforms, the Justice Department has warned, urging departments to take precautions.

Credit…Natchitoches Police Department

The Natchitoches Police Department is awaiting confirmation from a coroner on Officer Olliff’s cause of death, but is confident that heat played a role, Mr. Greely said.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, there have been only 14 recorded heat-related deaths in the line of duty from 1971 to 2020.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 600 Americans die a year of heat-related illnesses. But those numbers could be underreported, according to research by Dr. Sameed Khatana of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, because many death certificates do not list heat as a cause of death.

Officer Olliff had served with the Natchitoches police for four years, Mr. Greely said. The department had been discussing the creation of a summer uniform that would use lighter materials, to help officers working in the heat.

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