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Biden is adding a stop to his trip to North Carolina to visit families of fallen police officers

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden, who is traveling to Wilmington, North Carolina, on Thursday to discuss the economy, is making a detour to Charlotte to meet with the families of police officers shot on the job — just a week ago after sitting down with the grieving relatives of two police officers killed in upstate New York.

The visit is expected to take place quietly behind closed doors as the White House wants to respect the privacy of grieving families and avoid the appearance of using their grief for political purposes. The meeting was expected at the airport, an option that was expected to be the least burdensome for local law enforcement, which is still reeling from the deaths but would play a role in securing the president's travel.

Once again, Biden will seek to be an empathetic leader for a community suffering from gun violence while calling for stricter firearms rules and better funding for frontline law enforcement.

Four officers were killed in North Carolina earlier this week when a wanted man opened fire on an agency joint task force that had come to arrest him on a warrant for possession of a firearm as an ex-felon and fled to avoid his capture to escape. They were: Sam Poloche and William Elliott of the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Officer Joshua Eyer; and Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Weeks.

Four other officers were injured in the shooting; The suspect was killed. An AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a .40-caliber handgun and ammunition were found at the scene.

An AR-15 is among the weapons most often used in mass shootings, and it's the type of weapon Biden is talking about when he says the U.S. should ban “assault weapons.” After a horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Congress passed the most comprehensive gun safety law in decades in 2022. But it didn't go far enough, Biden often says.

And as he campaigns for the 2024 election, Biden has made curbing gun violence a key campaign platform that was elusive for Democrats even during the Obama era, as he fends off attacks from Republican challenger Donald Trump that he is soft on crime and anti-police.

Biden said in a statement this week after the North Carolina killings that the U.S. “must do more to protect our law enforcement officers. That means funding them – so they have the resources they need to do their jobs and keep us safe.”

The violence came just about two weeks after another fatal shooting of police officers in Syracuse, New York; Lieutenant Michael Hoosock and Officer Michael Jensen were killed while searching for a driver who had fled a traffic stop. After his speech, Biden met with members of both officials' families.

Biden was already scheduled to come to Syracuse to celebrate Micron Technology's plans to build a campus of computer chip factories, but the local police union said officials were still coming to grips with the deaths and were dealing with the The President's trip was not satisfied and we had hoped he would hesitate.

On Thursday, Biden will also travel to Wilmington, where he will announce that his administration is providing states with an additional $3 billion to replace lead pipes across the country, building on $5.8 billion in federal funding for water infrastructure projects in the country across the country, which were announced in February.

The money for the pipe replacement comes from one of the administration's key legislative victories, the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill that Biden signed in 2021. The infrastructure bill provides over $50 billion to modernize America's water infrastructure.

“It is long past time to abandon leadership once and for all,” Michael Regan, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said Wednesday. “This is a public health issue, an environmental justice issue and a fundamental human rights issue.”

Biden and his administration are committed to using all available tools “to achieve a 100% lead-free future for all Americans,” Regan told reporters at a White House briefing. “With every single day we come one step closer to a future in which no child will have to suffer the lasting effects of lead exposure.”

The new round of funding will help fund projects across the country as Biden seeks to replace all lead pipes in the country.

The EPA estimates that North Carolina has 370,000 lead pipes and $76 million will be spent statewide to replace them. Biden will also meet with teachers and students at a Wilmington school that used legal means to replace a water fountain with high levels of lead.

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Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Matthew Daly and Josh Boak contributed to this story.

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