By Anna Knight, Club Administrator, and Ron McBride, Chief of Police (Retired) and Law Enforcement Consultant
The IACP/DuPont Kevlar Survivors’ Club® pays tribute to those deserving officers who have avoided serious or potentially fatal injuries through the use of any kind of body armor. This column is dedicated to sharing their experiences, in hopes of persuading others to wear their armor. If body armor has helped you or a member of your department survive such an accident or assault, please contact Anna Knight, Club Administrator, IACP/DuPont Kevlar Survivors’ Club®, 5401 Jefferson Davis Highway, Richmond, VA 23234; 804-383-3853; 800-441-2746; fax: 804-383-2477; e-mail: Anna.G.Knight-1@USA.dupont.com .
The Survivors’ Club application is also available on the IACP’s Web site, www.theiacp.org , under Awards/Survivors’ Club.
Officer Shot at Close Range
Officer Anthony W. Hopper of the Beacon, New York, Police Department and his beat partner, Officer Jose Martinez, responded to a report of a suspicious person in a vehicle at a housing complex. Hopper approached the driver’s door and Martinez positioned himself near the left rear door. The vehicle was occupied by a male driver and a female passenger.
Hopper instructed the driver to roll down the driver’s door window. The driver responded that the window was broken and could not be lowered. Hopper then instructed the driver to open the door, but the driver refused to comply. Instead, he raised a semiautomatic pistol, pointed it at Hopper, and fired two rounds through the window. Hopper reports that he was temporarily blinded by the glass that shattered into his face. He moved for cover. Martinez returned fire and disabled the shooter.
Hopper determined that he had been struck by one bullet in the left lower torso. This bullet was stopped by his body armor. Hopper did not require hospitalization but did suffer a severe bruise from the impact of the bullet on his body armor.
Officer Hopper returned to duty. The shooter was hospitalized for a gunshot wound.
Officer’s Cruiser Struck from Behind at Roadside
Sergeant Richard L. Kelly of the Indiana State Police was working a motor carrier safety assistance program on I-65. He was stopped behind a tractor-trailer rig and was seated in his police cruiser conducting an inspection when a second truck struck his patrol car from behind.
The impact destroyed Kelly’s cruiser. He suffered fractures to the fifth and sixth vertebrae of his spine and numerous lacerations to his head, arms, hands, legs, and left ear. Kelly also received several contusions to his entire body, including his chest.
Kelly was wearing department-issued body armor at the time of the crash. The armor is credited by his agency with reducing the severity of the injuries, especially the damage to Kelly’s vital organs. Kelly was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated for two days before being released for home recovery. He later underwent follow-up surgery to fuse the fractured vertebrae in his neck. Doctors anticipate that Kelly will have a long recuperation before he can return to full duty.
Suspect Attempts to Kill Motorcycle Officer
Corporal Ron G. Clark of the Tulsa Police Department was working solo motorcycle patrol when he attempted to stop a motorist for an observed violation. He activated his emergency lights and siren and then accelerated to overtake the violator. Clark’s motorcycle reached an estimated speed of 80-90 miles per hour.
As Clark closed in on the violator, he noted that the driver looked into his rearview mirror and made eye contact with Clark. The violator then slammed on the brakes, forcing a collision with the police motorcycle. The motorist laid down 188 feet of skid marks. Clark’s motorcycle left 27 feet of visible skid marks before it struck the rear of the violator’s vehicle.
The motorcycle and Clark were thrown to the pavement. The motorcycle continued an additional 63 feet from the point of impact and Clark skidded 55 feet. The violator fled the scene.
Emergency medical officers transported Clark by ambulance to a local hospital, where he was treated and released after six hours. He suffered extensive bruises, abrasions, and superficial lacerations from striking and skidding on the pavement. Clark credits his wearing of ballistic body armor and a motorcycle helmet as the major factors that protected him from more serious physical injuries or death. He has returned to duty.
Investigators believe that the unidentified suspect intended to injure or kill Officer Clark. The investigation continues.v
Although manufacturers of bullet-resistant vests engineer their products to meet ballistic standards, history shows that such garments also provide limited protection against other threats, such as club and knife assaults (will not protect against sharp, pointed knives or ice picks), automobile accidents, motorcycle spills, falls, fires, explosions, etc. Nothing offers total protection, but personal body armor will improve the odds of surviving many of the life-threatening incidents constantly facing law officers.