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Back to Archives | Back to May 2004 Contents 

Survivors' Club

By Anna Knight, Club Administrator, and Ron McBride, Chief of Police (Ret.) and Law Enforcement Consultant

Survivors' Club Logo
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:

The Survivors' Club application is also available on the IACP's Web site, under Awards/Survivors' Club.

Ohio Detective Survives Shooting
Detective James S. Jones of the Zanesville, Ohio, Police Department survived an assault with a handgun when he was deployed as a member of the department's special response team to execute a search warrant at a residence where a murder suspect was hiding. The suspect had fled the scene of a homicide at a local motorcycle clubhouse just hours before.

The special response team entered through the front door to execute the warrant. Jones was on the point, armed with a .223-caliber shoulder weapon. The suspect was waiting for the officers with a 9mm pistol in each hand. He fired four rounds as Jones entered the doorway into a bedroom. Two rounds struck the detective in the torso. Both bullets were stopped by Detective Jones's tactical body armor. No other officers were struck.

The suspect was justifiably killed. It was learned that the suspect was wearing ballistic body armor that was not adequate to stop the .223-caliber rounds fired by the police. Conclusive evidence was found to link him to the earlier homicide.

Detective Jones's only injuries were superficial bruises under his vest where the bullets hit. He returned to duty after the incident.

Vest Protects New York SWAT Officer in Knife Attack
Officer Michael F. Knatz of the Nassau County, New York, Police Department survived an assault with a knife while he was serving as a member of the agency's Bureau of Special Operations. He was deployed with other team members to handle an armed barricaded suspect wanted for two murders.

Police believed the suspect had used a rifle to shoot and kill a priest and female parishioner at the conclusion of services at a church. The suspect had fled the church to his nearby apartment.

When a response team was ordered into the apartment after hours of negotiations, Officer Knatz was the point officer. He encountered the suspect, who refused to comply with orders, shouted out his intent to kill the officers, and fled deeper into the house.

Knatz overtook the fleeing suspect, and the suspect slashed at the officer with a six-inch kitchen knife with a single-edged blade. Knatz tried to use his ballistic shield to pin the suspect, but the shield was lost. The suspect then slashed Officer Knatz across the chest, cutting into but not penetrating the officer's body armor. The suspect continued his knife attack until five team members were able to overcome his resistance and complete the arrest.

Knatz continues in service as a member of the Nassau County Police Department SWAT team. The suspect was convicted for the murders at the church and attempted murder of the officer.

Nebraska Officer Survives after Being Struck by Vehicle
Deputy Amy M. Thorpe of the Lancaster County, Nebraska, Sheriff's Department was struck by a vehicle while working at the scene of a motor vehicle crash. After determining that there were no injuries in the crash, the deputy stood talking at the roadside with one of the drivers involved and his mother and 14-year-old sister, who were passengers in his vehicle.

An inattentive motorist plowed into the rear of one of the vehicles involved in the original crash and knocked that vehicle forward, where it struck Thorpe, the mother, and the sister. Deputy Thorpe was tossed onto another of the involved vehicles. She suffered a broken collarbone, concussion and multiple bruises, but no injuries to her vital organs. The sister landed clear and suffered only minor bumps and bruises. The mother was pinned beneath one of the crashed vehicles and died at the scene.

Thorpe recalls looking up and seeing a vehicle hurtling towards her as she thought, "Oh my God, we've been hit." Her next memory was of lying on the ground with an unknown male kneeling next to her assuring her that she was going to be okay and that help was on the way. She was transported and admitted to a hospital for two days, took six weeks off due to injury, and spent another six weeks on modified duty for rehabilitation. She is now a detective in the Lancaster County Sheriff's Department.

Thorpe is certain that her protective body armor saved her from more serious physical injuries or death. She recovered from her injuries and now serves as a detective in the Lancaster County Sheriff's Department.

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.


From The Police Chief, vol. 71, no. 5, May 2004. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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