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.
Florida Officer Protected in Knife Attack
Officer Jason P. Engelhardt of the Orlando, Florida, Police Department was assigned to solo patrol in the early morning hours one September and was checking an industrial area that had experienced several commercial burglaries. The five-year veteran of the force spotted a man dressed in black, walking behind some closed businesses. When the subject spotted the officer he fled and hid in some bushes adjacent to a retention pond. Engelhardt began searching for the subject using his flashlight.
The subject assaulted the officer, slashing him in the left center torso with a knife. A struggle ensued, and the suspect was able to break free from the officer and flee on foot. Engelhardt drew his service weapon and fired two shots at the suspect. The assailant fled the scene and was able to elude authorities.
Although ballistic body armor is not designed to protect against knife attacks, the suspect was not able to cut the officer because of the protective body armor worn under his uniform. Engelhardt, who was not injured during the incident, has returned to active duty.
Body Armor Saves Ohio Sheriff's Deputy in Crash
Two members of the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Sheriff's Department were returning from transporting prisoners from the county jail to the Lima Correctional Institution in Allen County when they were involved in a high-speed motor vehicle collision.
Deputy Sheriff James Salvino and Deputy Sheriff David W. Miller were attempting to enter northbound Interstate 75 from Ohio Route 117 in Lima when their marked patrol car skidded on the wet roadway. With Salvino behind the wheel, the car slid into a metal guardrail adjacent to the entrance ramp and bounced off, swerving across three lanes of the interstate. The patrol car collided with a tractor-trailer and was trapped beneath the trailer as the driver of the truck attempted to stop. Before the tractor-trailer could stop, the patrol car separated from under the truck, spun around completely, and came to rest on the shoulder of the highway. Passing motorists came to the aid of the two deputies trapped inside the vehicle, putting out an engine fire with extinguishers from their vehicles.
Both deputies were severely injured and emergency workers had to remove them from the vehicle. They were taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital. At the time of the accident, Miller was wearing a ballistic vest. Doctors treating him credited his body armor with absorbing some of the impact of the accident. He suffered significant blunt trauma abdominal injuries.
Unfortunately, Salvino succumbed to the injuries received in the accident and became the first deputy in the history of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's office to die in the line of duty.
Vest Protects Officer in Oklahoma Gun Battle
Officer Darren J. Bristow of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Police Department responded to a call of reported gunfire in the early morning hours. Upon arriving at the scene, Bristow was flagged down by a civilian who said he observed a subject shooting a gun in his back yard. Bristow returned to his patrol car for his shotgun and rejoined the civilian in his backyard when the suspect, Benito Hernandez, exited from an adjacent house and approached the pair. Bristow shined his flashlight on the suspect and ordered him to the ground.
As the officer turned his head to advise the civilian to take cover, Hernandez fired a 12-guage shotgun loaded with birdshot, striking Bristow and the civilian. The officer was struck in the right side and front but was able to return fire at Hernandez, who continued to fire at the officer. After emptying his shotgun, Bristow went for his sidearm and was struck with shotgun pellets in the face and head, shattering his glasses. While shielding the civilian, Bristow fired three shots with his handgun.
The suspect retreated into his residence, and Bristow and the civilian made their escape. Hernandez continued to fire on the responding officers from within the house and was eventually justifiably killed while attempting to flee.
Doctors who later treated Bristow learned that the officer had been struck with more than 100 birdshot pellets during the exchange. His body armor protected his vital organs from injury.
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.