By Anna Knight, Club Administrator, and Ron McBride, Chief of Police (Retired) and Law Enforcement Consultant
he 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.
Deputy Shot with Blowgun Dart Survives
Deputy Wayne E. Lake Jr., of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department, Pontiac, Michigan, made a traffic stop upon observing an expired vehicle registration plate. Although Lake followed normal officer safety protocol, the incident that then unfolded reinforces the knowledge that there is no such thing as routine for a law enforcement practitioner.
Lake was conducting a field interview of the stopped driver when he heard something hit the right side of his chest. He looked down and saw that a blow dart had penetrated his uniform. Fortunately, Lake’s ballistic vest stopped the dart, and it did not enter his body.
A male suspect was observed by Lake standing behind a bush an estimated 50 feet from the point of the traffic stop location. The suspect was holding a silver-colored metal object that Lake subsequently learned was a blowgun. The suspect refused to obey Lake’s verbal commands to remain in place and fled on foot. Lake pursued and overtook the suspect, who briefly resisted arrest. It was determined that the suspect was impaired by alcohol or drugs.
The suspect, who had a prior criminal history, was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm for the unprovoked attack on Lake and was convicted. Lake was not injured and continued on duty that day.
Detective Unharmed after Sustaining Rifle Shot to Left Arm
A 9-1-1 hang-up call led first responders to arrive at a residence and determine that it had been ransacked and the exterior doors blocked. The deputies withdrew to cover and requested deployment of the emergency response team. As a member of the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office emergency response team, Detective Gerry Brian Toney then responded to a report of a barricaded suspect.
It was learned that a 70-year-old male suspect had taken his wife hostage and was barricaded inside the residence. Negotiations were begun and continued unsuccessfully for nearly six hours. The suspect refused to surrender and made numerous threats to harm the law enforcement officers.
Responders then decided to make tactical entry, firing one round of tear gas into the residence. The entry team moved to force open the front door. Toney was assigned to breach the door using a ram. The suspect opened fire with a 30/30 lever action rifle, shooting several rounds through the front door. Toney was struck by one round in the upper left arm, and the bullet was stopped by his tactical body armor. The entry team pulled back, and additional tear gas was employed. Subsequently, the suspect was taken into custody.
Toney was not injured and returned to duty. The suspect was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder. Investigators determined that the suspect had a criminal history that included a previous incident of assaulting a police officer. The suspect’s wife was not injured.
Helmet Stops .22-Caliber Rifle Bullet
Deputy Timothy M. Dallenogare is an eight-year law enforcement veteran and has served the past four years as a member of the Winnebago Sheriff’s Office. On April 5, 2006, Dallenogare responded as a member of the special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team to a domestic-violence call in which shots were reported fired. The first responding unit had learned from family members that a 37-year-old male suspect had become enraged and shot his wife using a .22-caliber rifle. The unit also learned that a young adult daughter remained in the house. The daughter had called 9-1-1 and reported that she had locked herself in a bedroom on the upper level and that the shooter had become very agitated and was moving quickly about the house.
The incident commander concluded that concern for the well-being of the daughter and the unknown condition of the wife created a time-sensitive problem. The sheriff’s SWAT team formulated an entry plan. They intended to take advantage of the fact that the other family members had left the front door unlocked and slightly ajar when fleeing from the residence. After learning as much as possible from the family members who had escaped, the team formed up.
Dallenogare was tasked with taking the point and was designated to carry a ballistic shield to provide frontal cover for the team as entry was made. Lieutenant Todd Christopherson served as the team commander and was second in the stack. The team approached the front door and pushed it open. They were then faced with an unanticipated obstacle, as the stairway to the second floor was immediately inside the front doorway. Christopherson moved the team forward until a shot rang out. Dallenogare announced that he had been shot in the head. The shooter was squatting at the top of the stairway and had tactical advantage over the team. Christopherson deployed a diversionary device to cover the team’s withdrawal from the residence. Dallenogare continued to participate despite not knowing the extent of the injuries he may have suffered.
When the team was out of harm’s way, Dallenogare was moved back to a medical staging area and examined. It was learned that the suspect had fired a .22-caliber long rifle bullet that was stopped by Dallenogare’s ballistic helmet. The medics determined that Dallenogare had suffered no visible injuries. He was permitted to return to duty and took up a position on the perimeter.
By this time, additional SWAT units had responded, and needed equipment was made available. A robot was sent into the residence, and the lifeless body of the wife was located. Police introduced a heavy concentration of tear gas throughout the residence, except in the bedroom where the daughter was located. Teams were tasked with specific responsibilities and made entry via multiple points. The daughter was located and removed with no physical injuries. The body of the shooter was located, and investigators determined that he had used the rifle to commit suicide.■
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