Novelist George Orwell once observed that the public sleeps in peace "only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

And, one should add, to subject themselves to it.

The shooting death of Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is a jarring reminder of the constant threat of violence faced by those in uniform.

As noted in this newspaper's coverage, Del Fiorentino, 48, was a veteran law enforcement officer with 16 years of experience in the Sheriff's Office and 10 years with the Fort Bragg Police Department. Raised in Napa County, he was a husband and a father of three adult children and a 6-year-old stepdaughter. He also was deeply involved in the community, serving as a wrestling coach at Fort Bragg High School and as president of the local Police Activities League.

To call his death senseless is an understatement.

By all indications, he is just the latest victim of an individual bent on violence and the high-powered means to follow through.

Del Fiorentino was slain just north of Fort Bragg while confronting a suspect wanted for questioning in a shooting that had occurred a short time earlier at the Confusion Hill tourist attraction. Authorities say the gunman, Ricardo Antonio Chaney, 32, of Eugene, Ore., opened fire on Del Fiorentino while the deputy was still in his patrol car. He used an AK-47-style assault rifle in the attack.

Moments later, a Fort Bragg police lieutenant arrived and exchanged gunfire with Chaney who subsequently was found dead.

It was the end of long trail of violence for Chaney. Authorities say they believe Chaney shot and killed a 79-year-old man in Eugene and then set fire to the victim's home just after midnight. Less than an hour later, he robbed two men of their 2006 BMW at gunpoint, forcing the car's two occupants into the trunk. But police say they were able to escape before Chaney had driven away.

Later that day, Chaney engaged in a violent confrontation with the owner of the Confusion Hill tourist attraction north of Leggett during which shots were fired, but no one was injured. That resulted in the pursuit by deputies.

Fort Bragg Mayor Dave Turner said it best. "Ricky was doing his part," he said. "He was out there on the lines protecting us." But the question that remains is whether the public was doing enough to protect him, especially from unhinged individuals with high-powered weapons. It's a question that needs asking — in memory of those, like Del Fiorentino, who have fallen on our behalf.

See the Pulitzer Prize-winning articles on the October wildfires here

How we covered the early hours of the October fires here

See all of the PD's wildfire coverage here