By 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.
North Carolina Deputy Sheriff
Survives Shooting at Close Range
When Deputy Kenneth E. Davis of the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and another deputy sheriff found a man sleeping inside a car in a field near a residential area, they woke him and asked him to step out of the vehicle. The man appeared to be complying with their instructions. Instead, he drew a .22-caliber handgun and fired three times at Davis from a distance of less than five feet.
Two of the bullets struck Davis. One hit his badge, and the second hit the bottom of his shirt's left breast pocket. Deputy Davis's protective body armor stopped both rounds. He was transported to a regional trauma center where he was medically evaluated and determined to have suffered a superficial bruise. Davis was released from the hospital later the same day with no medical restrictions and returned to full duty in less than two weeks.
The shooter fled the scene on foot. When police found him in a wooded area nearby, they discovered that he had sustained a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Investigators learned that the suspect had a criminal history and was under the influence when he shot Davis. The suspect received emergency medical care but died five days later.
New Hampshire Officer
Attacked by Professional Boxer
After performing a field sobriety test on a motorist, Officer Judy E. Estes of the Belmont, New Hampshire, Police Department determined that the suspect, who had given a false identity, was under the influence of alcohol and attempted to arrest him. The suspect launched a vicious attack against her, striking the officer's head and face.
The attack knocked Estes to the pavement, and the suspect began kicking her in the torso. A female passenger in the suspect's vehicle pleaded with the suspect to stop the assault on the officer. Officer Estes recognized the name the female passenger shouted and realized that she was up against a professional boxer who had a criminal history that included prison time. He had been convicted of the attempted murder of a police officer.
Estes used pepper spray against her assailant, but the suspect did not immediately relent and continued punching and kicking her. The suspect suddenly broke off the attack and then fled the scene in his vehicle with the female passenger.
Although severely battered, Estes broadcast an alert. Soon afterward the suspect was involved in a crash and fled on foot. The female passenger was abandoned in the wrecked vehicle. She had suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Officer Estes and the female passenger were hospitalized for examination and treatment of their injuries.
Chief Vincent A. Baiocchetti reported that Officer Estes was protected by her personal body armor from more serious physical injuries; that allowed her to stay engaged by coordinating other police units until the suspect vehicle was located at the crash scene.
The suspect turned himself in some hours later and is awaiting trial on charges that include felony assault and escape. He faces 20 to 40 years in prison. Officer Estes recovered from her injuries and returned to full duty.
Vest Protects Boston
Police Officer from Gunfire
Officer Kevin Ford of the Boston Police Department was a member of a special operations team helping the Massachusetts State Police execute a search warrant seeking illegal drugs and firearms. Ford carried a ballistic shield on the entry team. After breaching the front door and deploying a distraction device, the team moved inside. An assailant in a bedroom shot Ford with a .45-caliber pistol. The bullet struck and was stopped by Officer Ford's tactical ballistic vest.
Ford continued after being hit by gunfire and completed the arrest of his assailant. He then announced to his colleagues that he had been hit and was subsequently transported for medical care. The attending physician discovered a significant laceration and a severe bruise. The doctor told Officer Ford that had it not been for his ballistic vest the gunshot wound have been fatal. The hospital released Ford two hours later.
The search team found the weapon used to shoot Officer Ford, several ounces of high-grade marijuana, and $1,600 cash. The suspected shooter, a 27-year-old man with a prior arrest, was charged with the attempted murder of Officer Ford and related drug and weapons charges. He is awaiting trial. Officer Ford returned to duty with the special operations team two months after the shooting. ■
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.