i don't know if it's the true cause of your problem, but NPC's tend to use spread weapons far more often than players do. Also, NPC's have damage buffs that players don't, so they wind up mowing down your entire crew with rapid-fire pistols.
Because despite how apparently new at this you are, you're still doing better than your boffs are, and thus, generate the most threat anyway. Boffs are pretty crap when it comes to fighting, and thus practically never hold aggro.
Besides, ask yourself: If you were the NPCs, who would YOU be shooting?
You're not "dead" until you respawn. And I'm not entirely sure that this causes them to forget you, it's entirely common for NPCs to follow you all the way back to the spawn point and then spawncamp your corpse. I like this about them, really, it makes them seem more player-like.