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.
Body Armor Protects Trooper Pinned to Vehicle
Trooper Cameron W. Keesling was working with a partner when they were alerted to a request from the Stafford County, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office to assist with the apprehension of a motorist who was refusing to stop. The original incident involved an expired motor vehicle registration. The incident took place on Interstate 95 in heavy pre-Thanksgiving traffic.
A rolling roadblock was implemented, and the officers were successful at boxing in the motorist. Keesling was riding in the front passenger seat of the fully marked state police car. As he exited the passenger side of the unit, the stopped motorist rammed his vehicle into the door that Keesling was exiting. Trooper Keesling was pinned between the door and the body of the state police vehicle. The suspect continued to accelerate, partially folding the patrol car door around Keesling’s body. Keesling feared for his life and took immediate steps to stop the threat. He fired on the driver, who was killed in the confrontation.
Keesling was transported to a hospital for medical care. The attending physician determined that Keesling had suffered blunt-force trauma to the front and rear of his torso as well as below the waist front and rear. The backface signature injuries were described as both superficial and severe lacerations as well as severe bruising. He was hospitalized one day for treatment. The imprint of the door of the state police vehicle was visible on Keesling’s body armor. Clearly, Trooper Keesling’s body armor protected him from more serious physical injuries or death.
Trooper Keesling continues his rehabilitation. The Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney made the determination that the police use of force was self-defense. Investigators determined that the assailant that attempted to kill Trooper Keesling had a prior criminal history in Florida involving a firearm and drugs as well as multiple convictions for driving under the influence and associated violations. At the time of the incident, the assailant had no Virginia driving privileges.
Officer Assists in Apprehension of Suspect Who Shot Him
Officer David P. Manganiello was working a solo car when he responded to a radio run to a check-cashing store on a report that an individual was attempting to cash a fraudulent check. Manganiello entered the small store and found that the store’s owner was still talking on the telephone with the police dispatcher. The owner motioned with his head in the direction of a male subject who was standing at the counter facing away from the officer. Manganiello observed that in addition to the owner and male at the counter there were two other individuals in the small store.
The male at the counter turned around and faced the officer. Manganiello observed that this individual had a startled facial expression. The male began to walk around the officer, apparently intent on leaving the store. Manganiello placed a hand on the individual and ordered him to stop. Anticipating that the individual might attempt to flee, Manganiello reached for his radio microphone to call for backup. The suspect suddenly brandished a .38-caliber pistol and fired a contact shot to the left front side of Manganiello’s torso. The bullet was stopped by the officer’s protective body armor.
As the shooter ran from the store, he fired a second shot that struck an automatic teller machine. Officer Manganiello notified the dispatcher that he had been shot and provided a description of the suspect and his direction of travel: on foot crossing a heavily traveled roadway. Responding officers quickly located the suspect on a nearby side street. He was taken into custody but was not armed at the time of arrest. The firearm used to shoot Manganiello was subsequently located by an officer in a bush, where it had apparently been discarded by the suspect. The suspect has a criminal history. He is charged with the attempted murder of a police officer, and the matter remains an active case.
Officer Manganiello was transported to a Newark, New Jersey, hospital for examination. He suffered a backface signature injury in the form of a superficial laceration and a severe bruise. He was discharged from the hospital after three hours and returned home. Officer Manganiello returned to full duty.
Armor Enables Officer to Survive Traffic Stop Ambush
Officer Kevin P. McDonald of the Oakland, California, Police Department was assigned as part of a squad targeting illegal car rallies known as “sideshows.” In these events, motorists disregard traffic laws and participate in stunt driving such as “cutting donuts,” where the vehicle is spun about, and “ghosting,” where a vehicle is permitted to roll without a driver while its former occupants run or walk beside it.
McDonald was working as a solo motorcycle officer. He observed a stop sign violation and made a traffic stop. The vehicle was occupied by two subjects. McDonald approached the driver’s side window. The driver turned and looked at McDonald and opened fire with a 9mm pistol that he was holding in his lap. It was an ambush attack.
The first round struck McDonald in the center of his chest and was stopped by his ballistic vest and trauma plate. The second bullet passed through McDonald’s little finger on his left hand. The officer reported that all he was able to see at first were the muzzle flashes, as the shooter fired the weapon from his lap. The shooter fired two more rounds that missed McDonald.
Officer McDonald called for assistance. Responding officers located the suspects’ abandoned vehicle nearby and cordoned off the area. One suspect was located hiding under a residence and was fatally wounded when he confronted the officers. The shooter escaped from the search area and was arrested 11 days later while in hiding in Sacramento; he is being held on a charge of attempted murder of a police officer.
McDonald was transported to a hospital and was treated for the gunshot wound to his finger. He also suffered a superficial bruise under his vest from the impact of the first bullet. He has returned to duty.
Carjacked Officer’s Body Armor Stops Shot to Lower Torso
Officer Tommy L. Wilson Sr. of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Police Department completed his normal tour of duty and traveled home wearing his police uniform, which included protective body armor. When he arrived home he faced the task of clearing his sidewalks of freshly fallen snow. He was wearing a civilian three-quarter-length coat over his uniform and was carrying his duty weapon in a soft holster on his right hip under the outer coat. Wilson discovered that he needed salt to complete his snow removal task and drove to a nearby service station to purchase it. He decided to fuel his truck at the same time.
While fueling the truck, Wilson observed a minivan pulling into the service station lot. Wilson completed fueling his truck and was attempting to close the driver’s door when an unknown individual held it open and asked Wilson for change. This individual pointed a gun at the officer, ordering him to sit on the passenger side of the truck. The armed suspect took the driver’s seat, and a second suspect took a rear seat. The driver-suspect told the backseat suspect to place a gun against Wilson’s neck.
Wilson attempted to observe the backseat suspect but was told to look forward. Officer Wilson told the two suspects they could have his truck, to which the driver-suspect responded, “I don’t care about this truck, I’ll crash this [expletive] truck and put a bullet in your head.” The truck was driven off the lot followed by the minivan. The driver-suspect demanded money, and Wilson gave him $25 from his shirt pocket. The truck was driven into an alley and stopped, and the minivan pulled along the left side. The driver-suspect rolled down the driver’s door window, and the front passenger door window of the minivan was also opened. Wilson was unable to hear the conversation between the driver-suspect and the occupant of the minivan.
Wilson was ordered out of his vehicle, and the backseat suspect began to pat him down while pointing a weapon. Wilson feared that his service pistol would be discovered and announced that he was a police officer. He then pushed away the suspect conducting the search and moved to get distance from the armed individuals. The suspect that had been searching Wilson fired one bullet from a .38-caliber pistol. This round struck the center lower region of the officer’s torso and was stopped by his body armor. Officer Wilson returned fire, and all three suspects fled on foot.
The three suspects were located in short order in a nearby apartment. Two of the suspects had nonfatal gunshot wounds. The follow-up investigation revealed that the minivan occupant was an accomplice to the robbery and assault of Officer Wilson. The minivan had been stolen. The suspects were arrested and subsequently convicted of related crimes, including attempted homicide. Officer Wilson suffered a backface bruise resulting from the bullet strike to his protective body armor. He was not hospitalized and was able to return to full duty. ■