Anna Knight, Club Administrator, and Ron McBride, Chief of Police (Ret.) 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.
Texas Officer Owes Life to Body Armor
Just before midnight, Officer Clint D. Gardner Sr. of the Tyler, Texas, Police Department was called to investigate a child molestation report at a local motel. Gardner and Officer Steven L. Resinger arrived at the motel room in question, knocked on the door, and announced their presence. The officers were invited into the room by a male subject and observed a female on the bed. The officers inquired about others that might be in the room and were told that a female was in the bathroom taking a bath. Resinger knocked on the bathroom door and instructed the female to come out of the room. When she complied, Resinger noticed what he believed to be controlled substances and drug paraphernalia in the bathroom. Additional backup was requested and Gardner started to frisk the male suspect.
Unknown to the officers, Arthur J. Coffey, a convicted felon, had remained in the bathroom. The suspect exited the bathroom shooting a pistol and fired a total of seven shots. Gardner was struck by one shot in his center torso, but the steel insert in his protective body armor stopped the bullet. A second round grazed Gardner's head. Resinger was shot and wounded in the leg. Gardner fired eight times, hitting the suspect, who continued to fight using his pistol to strike Resinger in the head. Gardner came to the aid of his colleague and engaged the suspect in hand-to-hand combat. The officer and the suspect went sprawling out the door onto the parking lot. Although injured, Resinger was able to place fire on Coffey and fatally wounded the suspect.
Gardner was hospitalized for one day for a severe bruise to his torso where the bullet struck his body armor. He was later released and returned to full duty.
Body Armor Protects Illinois Officer in Vehicle Crash
Officer Mark D. Terveer of the Collinsville, Illinois, Police Department was making a nonemergency response to a reported motor vehicle crash when he was advised that an officer needed assistance with an unruly subject resisting arrest. Terveer diverted to help the officer and upgraded to an emergency response using his lights and siren.
As Terveer approached an intersection, a motorist who did not see or hear the approaching police vehicle pulled into the intersection and stopped. Terveer avoided hitting the civilian motorist's vehicle but lost control of his patrol unit and left the roadway, slamming into a tree and fence on the driver's side. A piece of the fence entered the patrol car and struck Terveer in the left lower shoulder blade. Since he was wearing personal body armor, the wood was unable to penetrate the vest. Terveer was trapped in the heavily damaged patrol car for more than an hour as fire personnel worked to extricate him. He was transported to an area hospital where he remained for one week receiving treatment for extensive injuries received in the crash. He sustained a severe bruise from where the piece of wood hit his vest but did not suffer a puncture wound.
According to Major Ed Delmore of the Collinsville Police Department, vests like those worn by Terveer "have become more wearable and the chances of officers being involved in an incident where the vest would potentially save them is a real possibility." Delmore noted that in Collinsville, its mandatory for police officers to wear vests while on duty and in uniform.
Body Armor Saves Mississippi Officer
Officer Eros J. Smith of the Jackson, Mississippi, Police Department was on patrol on the morning of June 3, 2003, when he attempted to stop a suspect for running a red light. With his siren and emergency lights operating, Smith pursued the suspect for several blocks. The subject stopped once but took off again as the officer exited his patrol vehicle. After driving a few blocks farther, the suspect stopped his vehicle again and fled on foot, carrying a large plastic bag. Smith chased the suspect and ordered him to stop. The suspect dropped the bag he was carrying and took cover behind a tree. He then pulled a .38-caliber handgun from his waistband and fired five rounds at Smith. One round struck Smith in the right upper chest and was stopped by his protective body armor. Smith returned fire and struck the suspect, who then fled.
Responding backup units searched for the suspect and found him hiding under a house, still armed with the revolver. He was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer. Authorities later learned that he was a convicted violent felon and had served seven years in a state penitentiary.
Officer Smith was checked at a local hospital, treated for a severe bruise, and released. He has returned to duty.
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.