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Back to Archives | Back to May 2006 Contents 

Survivors' Club

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

Vest Deflects Rifle Round That Strikes North Carolina Deputy
Corporal Jeremy J. Rowley of the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was off duty and at home when his wife departed for work. She alerted Corporal Rowley that she believed someone shot at her as she pulled from their driveway. This was the start of a series of events that ended in the deaths of Rowley's father-in-law and two neighbors.

Rowley went to investigate the report of shots fired. He drove to the nearby residence of his father-in-law, James M. Johnson, a reserve deputy with the sheriff's office. When he arrived he encountered a former neighbor armed with a 9mm pistol and an SKS assault rifle. As Rowley pulled into Johnson's driveway, the former neighbor opened fire with the SKS rifle. Unknown to Rowley, Johnson had already been shot and was down in tall grass just a few feet from him, suffering from multiple wounds that proved to be fatal.

The shooter had returned to his old neighborhood to kill neighbors with whom he had a long-running dispute. He had killed two of his former neighbors before shooting Johnson and likely would have continued his rampage had Rowley not engaged. Sheriff William T. Schatzman described Rowley as a hero for stopping the killer.

Bullets from the SKS rifle struck Rowley in four places: the back of the head, the chest above his protective vest, in the wrist, and in the center of his torso. His body armor stopped the latter bullet. Rowley returned fire, hitting the suspect with several bullets and knocking him to the ground. Critically injured, Rowley called for assistance while bracing himself against the side of his patrol unit and kept his weapon trained on the downed shooter.

Rowley was hospitalized for 15 days and has returned to a staff job while being rehabilitated. The shooter is in jail awaiting court action on three capital murder charges and one charge of attempted murder.

Knife in Trauma Plate Pocket Stops Screwdriver Blade
Deputies Ernie W. L. Romero and Brian J. Nessen of the Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sheriff's Department arrived at the scene of a reported domestic dispute in progress. They were met by an individual who identified himself as the stepfather of a man who was inside the mobile home causing an ongoing disturbance. Inside, they found a man who appeared to be intoxicated seated on a bed. He was armed with a 14-inch screwdriver.

While Nessen interviewed the stepfather, Romero spoke with the suspect, who at first refused to put the screwdriver down. He claimed that his stepfather and another person had assaulted him earlier in the day with a baseball bat. Romero was gaining the suspect's confidence and the incident was deescalating when the stepfather entered the bedroom and taunted the suspect about his bravery. Romero directed the stepfather out of the room.

As Romero did so, the suspect thrust the screwdriver into Romero's chest. A knife that Romero carried in the trauma plate pocket of his body armor deflected the blow. The suspect was yelling, in Spanish, "I will kill you" and continued the assault. Romero was stabbed in the face before disarming the suspect and taking him to the floor. Backup units handcuffed the suspect and placed him in a patrol car.

Deputy Romero received treatment for the stab wound to his face. He recovered from the injuries and returned to full duty.

Vest Saves Detective in Shooting
Detective Brian E. Fennelly of the Morton Grove, Illinois, Police Department and his partner were investigating a violent home invasion that occurred the night before. One of the criminals reportedly pistol-whipped the female victim. The victim's roommate had interrupted the crime in progress and gave investigators a description of one suspect and the vehicle used by the criminals.

Fennelly and his partner found the suspect vehicle at an apartment complex in northwest Chicago. They obtained both search and arrest warrants and teamed up with a uniformed Chicago Police Department sergeant to serve the warrants. The Morton Grove officers were dressed in civilian business attire with their police badges prominently displayed.

After announcing "Police" they forced entry and immediately encountered an armed suspect. The officers moved to disarm the suspect, who was shot and killed during the scuffle. A second suspect was in the kitchen and opened fire on the officers using a .380-caliber pistol. Fennelly was hit center torso and the bullet was stopped by his protective body armor. Officers returned fire and killed the second suspect.

Fennelly received treatment for a severe bruise caused by the impact of the bullet on his vest. He recovered from the incident.   ■



From The Police Chief, vol. 73, no. 5, May 2006. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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