By 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 Brad Eaton, IACP/DuPont Kevlar Survivors’ Club®, 5401 Jefferson Davis Highway, Richmond, VA 23234; 804-383-3853; 800-441-2746; fax: 804-383-2477; e-mail: Brad.Eaton@USA.dupont.com .
The Survivors’ Club application is also available on the IACP’s Web site, www.theiacp.org , under Awards & Campaigns/Campaigns/Survivors’ Club.
Body Armor Shields Officer’s Torso in Traffic Crash
Deputy Richard S. Dickinson of the Iron County, Utah, Sheriff’s Office responded to a fatal traffic crash on the local interstate highway. He was setting up a traffic control pattern to divert traffic into a single lane when a tractor-trailer approached the crash site at a reported speed in excess of 70 miles per hour. The driver was unable to slow the rig and swerved into the right lane, attempting to avoid slower traffic. The rig continued to the left, going off the roadway into the median.
Deputy Dickinson turned and saw the rig coming at him. The trailer of the rig hit Dickinson’s parked patrol unit. The patrol unit then hit him, throwing him 20 feet into the passing lane.
Dickinson suffered a severe laceration to his right forearm and injuries to his left leg and right shoulder. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated for several hours. It was determined that Deputy Dickinson also suffered a closed head injury and a separated shoulder. He reports that his body armor protected his torso from injuries. He continues his recovery after undergoing surgery to repair the shoulder.
The truck driver was arrested and charged with various offenses. He appeared in court and was convicted.
Assaulted Constable Protected from Further Harm by Body Armor
Constable Daniel M. Furman of the Edmonton, Alberta, Police Service and his partner were on patrol duty when they were assigned to respond to a report of an assault. Their investigation led them to a low-rent boarding house. Constable Furman reported that “people were everywhere.”
The constables searched for the assault suspect, locating him hiding in a furnace room. As the constables entered the room, the suspect drew a firearm and, from a distance of three feet, shot Constable Furman in the chest. This bullet struck and was stopped by Furman’s protective body armor and trauma plate but broke his sternum. The shooter stood over Constable Furman and shot two more times, execution-style. One bullet went through Furman’s left hand, breaking it. The next round went through the right shoulder strap of Furman’s body armor and entered his torso, breaking two ribs, puncturing his right lung, severing the right subclavian artery, and exiting through his back.
Constable Furman was transported for emergency medical care. He lost a massive amount of blood and was hospitalized for 10 days. The 26-year-old male shooter had a violent criminal history and appeared to be under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident. During the incident, the shooter was killed, which was later determined to be justifiable.
Officer Survives Hand-to-Hand Confrontation with Help from Body Armor
Police Officer III Andrew P. Taylor of the Los Angeles, California, Police Department responded along with three other officers to a reported assault with a deadly weapon. The officers detained a suspect. While the investigation was under way, the handcuffed suspect pulled a .357-caliber revolver from his rear waistband.
From a distance of less than three feet, the suspect fired five rounds at Officer Taylor. The bullets struck in the following sequence: right lower front torso area, stopped by body armor; Taylor’s holster and service pistol; right armpit, with the bullet passing through Taylor’s body and exiting his back upper right torso area; left chest area, striking Taylor’s metal police uniform badge; and the wall behind Taylor, missing him completely with the final shot.
Taylor engaged the shooter in hand-to-hand battle, attempting to gain control of the weapon. Other officers attempted to contain the shooter, who was killed. The killing of the suspect was determined to be justifiable. Officer Taylor was hospitalized two days for treatment of the through-and-through gunshot wound to his upper torso area and was off work for nearly four months before returning to duty.
Body Armor Enables Officer to Return Quickly to Duty
Officer Wade H. Willson of the Shawnee, Kansas, Police Department was dispatched to an armed disturbance; shots were fired moments after his arrival. Other officers had already arrived at the scene. Willson took up a tactical position to provide cover. He was standing near a residence when he observed a woman standing in the doorway. The woman told Willson, “He’s in my back yard!” Willson was unable to use his portable radio due to the volume of radio traffic. He signaled with his flashlight and called out that he needed backup.
Officer Willson began to scan the area using his flashlight when his attention focused on movement near the corner of a residence. The suspect, using the corner of the house as cover, leaned out and shot a .40-caliber handgun at Willson five times. One round struck Willson in the lower front left torso area. This bullet was stopped by Willson’s body armor. Other officers came immediately to the scene of the shooting.
Willson was removed from the action by his sergeant. When clear from the danger zone, Willson was examined, and it was determined that he had suffered a slight bruise under his left rib cage. He was transported to a local hospital, where it was determined he suffered no other injuries. He was released from the hospital after one hour.
The suspect was taken into custody 30 minutes after shooting Willson. The shooter had a criminal history involving violence and weapons. He was charged with attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer. Officer Willson was placed on administrative leave pending completion of the investigation. He returned to full duty one week after being shot. ■