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.
|NIJ Awards Grant to Fund Body Armor Study|
In the years 1997 to 2006, 101 officers were feloniously killed when they were shot in areas of the torso. Of those deaths, 78 percent occurred as a result of shots to areas not covered by body armor. This trend cannot continue.
Last fall the National Institute of Justice awarded funding to investigate the effects of increased coverage area for soft body armor. The first part of this two-year effort, a collaboration between Lawrence Technological University and Mississippi State University, will determine the types of injuries sustained by officers while wearing body armor compared to the types of injuries sustained by those either not wearing armor or in areas where there was no armor coverage, which will provide unique insight to the research community as well as those forming policies related to soft body armor design, evaluation, and use.
Dr. Marianne Wilhelm requests help in gathering information on officer injuries related to vest coverage area. The focus is to extract information related to the area of gunshot injury, the severity of injury, and the caliber of weapons used in order to develop a risk assessment specific to areas of the body where armor coverage should be increased. The study is not limited with respect to age, gender, or time of service. The study will include all types of body armor but will be limited to gunshots only.
For more information or to enroll in the study, readers can contact Dr. Wilhelm at 480-338-7693 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Armor Protection Enables Pursuit and Apprehension of Fleeing Suspect
Officer Joseph R. Wojciak was working solo patrol day watch for the Austintown, Ohio, Police Department when he pulled into a large store parking lot to observe morning drive activities. A male unknown to Wojciak walked up to the driver’s door window of Wojciak’s patrol car and inquired about directions to a credit union. The individual continued his conversation, stating that he worked at a nearby retail store. He then told Wojciak, “I need for you to get out of the car.” The comment was not in a threatening tone nor was there an indication that the individual was armed, even though he had his hands in his jacket pockets.
Wojciak placed the car in drive and drove in a circle while requesting backup. He then took up a position behind the suspect. The suspect again approached and stated in a louder, determined voice, ordering Wojciak to get out of the police car. At that moment the suspect pulled his right hand from his jacket pocket to reveal a .22-caliber revolver. Wojciak instinctively leaned back in the seat to get distance from the firearm. The suspect fired one bullet from a distance of four to six feet. The bullet hit Wojciak in the upper left part of his torso and was stopped by his ballistic body armor.
Officer Wojciak drove in a half circle and was again positioned behind the suspect, who began to flee on foot. Wojciak closed and struck the suspect, propelling him onto the hood of the vehicle. When Wojciak braked to a stop, the suspect rolled to the pavement, jumped up, and ran into a nearby wooded area. Wojciak took up a foot chase that led into a residential area. He was cognizant that children were in the area, en route to school. Wojciak judiciously fired one round from his 9mm service weapon at the suspect from a considerable distance. The suspect fell to the ground but immediately got back up and continued his flight. Wojciak advanced on the suspect. When the suspect stopped, Wojciak fired at the suspect a second time. The suspect again fell to the ground but again got back to his feet and ran from the officer. Officer Wojciak was able to close on the suspect, who then stopped and turned, raising his hands over his head. Wojciak observed that the suspect did not have a weapon in either hand. He ordered the suspect to the ground, took cover, and held the suspect at gunpoint until backup arrived and the arrest was completed.
Officer Wojciak was transported to a hospital, where he was treated for a superficial laceration backface injury. The suspect suffered no bullet wounds but was injured as a result of being struck by the patrol vehicle and the subsequent impact with the pavement. He was transported for care, lodged in jail, and now awaits court action for attempted murder, aggravated robbery, and felonious assault on a police officer. Officer Wojciak returned to full duty.
Armor Shields Officer in Shooting Following High-Speed Pursuit
Officer Stephen D. DeVore responded to assist Officer Pete Quinones, who observed two male suspects tagging graffiti on a building. The suspects left the scene in a vehicle and refused to stop when Quinones activated his emergency lights and siren. A high-speed pursuit resulted, with DeVore engaged as the second unit. The fleeing suspects’ vehicle hit a curb, flattening two tires and forcing them to stop.
One of the males exited the vehicle and immediately began firing a .40-caliber pistol at DeVore at a distance of less than five feet. One bullet hit DeVore in the upper left part of his chest and was stopped by his body armor. DeVore returned fire across the top of his patrol car. The shooter fled on foot.
DeVore took the second suspect into custody without further violence. He turned the arrestee over to another officer and summoned medical assistance to check a burning sensation in his upper left chest area. DeVore was treated at a local hospital for a severe backface signature bruise and a muscle tear in his left chest. He has since returned to duty.
The shooter was located in Texas and waived extradition back to New Mexico. Investigators determined that the shooter had a prior arrest for a weapons violation. He was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon on a police officer.
Body Armor Protects Officer in Motorcycle Crash
Officer Ross N. Ford was assigned to solo motorcycle patrol, working traffic enforcement. Ford stopped for a red traffic light, but the vehicle to his left did not stop for the signal. Ford activated the warning lights and electronic siren on his motorcycle, waited for conflicting traffic to clear, and then maneuvered to overtake the violator.
Officer Ford was traveling in the middle lane of a three-lane roadway with emergency equipment operating, and his speed was near 70 miles per hour. As he crested a small hill, he observed a motorist ahead entering the roadway who had stopped for cross traffic and was blocking all three lanes in front of him. Ford realized that a collision was imminent and consciously decided to avoid hitting the stopped vehicle in the driver’s-side door. As he swerved to the left, he hit the front left corner of the vehicle, and his motorcycle went airborne. He and the vehicle traveled more than 50 feet farther, and the motorcycle landed on top of him.
Ford was seriously injured, with a broken shoulder bone, severe bruising, and road rash. He was transported to a trauma center for treatment. He was released after two days. The reporting officer noted that Ford’s body armor protected his torso from injuries and that his helmet prevented head injuries. Officer Ford has since returned to duty. The motorist that caused the crash was cited for failure to yield the right of way at a stop sign.
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.