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.
Vest Saves Utah Officer from Shotgun Blasts
Officer Jason S. Thomas was alone on patrol duty for the Cedar City, Utah, Police Department when he stopped to render aid to a motorist stuck in a snowdrift.
Thomas encountered two subjects with the immobilized vehicle and another Good Samaritan motorist that had stopped to render assistance. In talking with the passenger in the vehicle that was stuck, Thomas determined that the individual was providing false information. He also noted the presence of empty beer cans on the ground near the vehicle and detected the odor of intoxicants about the driver and passenger.
The driver of the immobilized vehicle walked around the rear of his vehicle as Thomas continued to talk with the passenger. The driver then reappeared with a 12-gauge shotgun and opened fire on Thomas at a distance of five feet or less. The first shotgun blast hit Thomas on the right side of his chest. Thomas was able to stay on his feet and moved for cover. The suspect shot a second time from a distance of between six and ten feet; this blast hit Thomas in the back. The third shotgun blast missed Thomas and hit a nearby residence instead.
The shooter hijacked the Good Samaritan’s vehicle at gunpoint and fled the scene. Thomas was able to stay on his feet and summon assistance. Another patrol officer then transported him to a local hospital. Attending physicians examining Thomas reported that he had “a significant right upper lobe pulmonary contusion under the right chest blast site, which obviously was blocked by the Kevlar vest that the patient was fortunately wearing.” Officer Thomas suffered penetrating shotgun number 8 pellet wounds outside the vest coverage area. He spent two days in the intensive-care unit and a total of five days in the hospital. He has since returned to modified duty for rehabilitation and is expected to make a full recovery.
The 30-year-old shooter, who has a criminal history that includes a prior arrest for assault, was subsequently arrested on charges of aggravated robbery and attempted homicide of a police officer. The matter remains before the court.
Body Armor Helps Officer Survive Head-on Collision
Deputy Michael N. Gross of the Boone County, Kentucky, Sheriff’s Department was patrolling his assigned area. As he traveled north on U.S. Route 25, a Toyota 4-Runner sport utility vehicle, equipped with a front push bumper, pulled into the path of his cruiser. The impact was nearly head-on. Damage to the vehicles was severe.
Deputy Gross was stunned by the force of the impact. When he recovered from the crash, he realized the severity of the incident. Gross had suffered a large wound on his left arm from the force of the airbag deployment. He completed a self-examination and detected no injuries or wounds to his upper torso, but he did find an injury to the back of his head.
Deputy Gross was transported to a trauma center for examination and care. The attending physician noted the lack of torso injuries and credited this to Gross’s body armor. He was treated and released after four hours. Gross was returned to full duty.
Officer’s Torso Protected from Shots at Close Range
Officer David E. Fikes of the Anderson, South Carolina, Police Department responded along with his supervisor and another officer to a reported armed robbery in progress. Upon arrival, the first officer made contact with the complainant while Fikes drove around one end of the building and the supervisor the opposite side. The officer in contact with the complainant broadcast a description of the suspect. Fikes immediately spotted an individual matching the description running from the back door of the building where the robbery had taken place. The suspect was fleeing on foot.
Officer Fikes activated the emergency lights on his police vehicle to attract his supervisor’s attention as he drove toward the suspect. He then dismounted and began to chase after the suspect on foot. Fikes overtook and tackled the fleeing suspect, who began firing a handgun of unknown caliber. The suspect got off five rounds at a range that varied from one to five feet.
Fikes was hit by all five bullets; two passed through his right bicep, and three slugs hit his torso. The shots to the torso were stopped by his body armor. Officer Fikes was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and released after six hours. Fikes recovered from his wounds and has returned to duty. The suspect fled the scene and has not been identified. ■