National Security

Police ‘shield’ deflects bullet—cop lives, gun-toting teen shooter dies

Justice protected, justice served

Image Credit: Anchorage Police Department

Bullet-proof vests are staple ingredients for cops, but the badge symbolizing the conferred authority to effectively “serve and protect” works many ways, even miraculous ones.

Such is the case for an Anchorage, Alaska police officer who was on duty, conducting a traffic stop with another Anchorage police officer, when they were fired upon by a 16-year-old teen occupying the car’s rear seat. In this context, one officer returned fire.

In this blink-of-an-eye activity, one of the teen’s bullets actually struck one of the two cops. More specifically, his badge was struck, deflecting the bullet which then contacted his ballistic vest. The great part is he was shot and stayed in the fight; even though the shooter was dealt with, four more occupants remained in the vehicle—and police had no idea if any were also armed. As academy training and street survival stipulates, situational awareness is paramount.

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Sounds like these two cops exercised everything necessary to stop the immediate threat then throttled to maintain scene/officer safety, to ensure the other four had no designs on murdering cops while the cavalry was en route.

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Detailing this incident, Anchorage police Chief Justin Doll provided a press conference at police HQ:

Officer-Involved Shooting Update: 5th Avenue + Reeve Boulevard; 2/16/20, APD Case: 20-5632

Posted by Anchorage Police Department on Sunday, February 16, 2020

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In a way we can say the bullet went to the heart of the matter, and that matter in this real-life scenario (a policeman on the front-lines doing his duty) was shielded in more ways than one. Indeed, his badge deflected a tiny high-velocity metal object which can kill. Definitely thankful he was wearing his ballistic vest. Yet even both of these police icons are not always enough: we see shooting scenarios whereby armed assailants fire upon cops and the fluke of all time happens—the bullet penetrates where there is zero protection (armpit area). This Anchorage case was close to being potentially deadly at worst, a bad bleed at best. Yeah, neither is as optimal as a miraculous deflection.

Thankfully, Murphy’s Law was not enacted on Sunday. But that was a close call. How close? Well, although we do not have any forensic analysis at this point, a general accounting will suffice. The few pictures released by APD portray a bent badge indicating the bullet struck at the shield’s wreathing encircling the badge, at the lower tip. That factor deflected the bullet downward and toward the underlying ballistic barrier, saving the day/officer’s life. Conversely, had it deflected from the upper part of the shield, it likely would have penetrated the officer’s neck or, a tad higher, his face/head.

(Photo Credit: Anchorage Police Department)

The Anchorage PD and Alaska’s law enforcement community almost had a police funeral to attend. Fortunately, a miracle circumvented such a tragedy.

Anchorage police Chief Doll posted the following in a press release: “During the incident, one of our officers was shot in the upper body. The bullet struck the officer’s badge, and then deflected into his body armor. While each investigation is different, in this case we felt it was important to share with everyone how close we came to having an officer seriously injured or killed in the line of duty. These photos [above] are a stark reminder of the dangers our officers sometimes face while protecting our city. All of us at APD are thankful that he suffered only minor injuries.”

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Think of the punctuation this story has, involving an on-duty cop fully-decked in an unmistakable police uniform who comes under fire and lives to talk about how his badge shielded him from being a fatality statistic. Akin to military service, it is a long-held tradition in law enforcement (for cops lucky enough to make it to retirement) to establish a shadowbox comprising all badges, patches, and medals worn throughout their storied police career. Can you imagine the conversation piece behind a bent badge symbolizing the speaker talking about his second chance at life thanks to the shield he donned over his heart?

As Anchorage police Chief Doll said in the press conference at HQ, “We are extremely relieved that our officers’ training and equipment allowed them to go home.”

Stephen Owsinski
meet the author

Stephen Owsinski is a LifeZette contributing editor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is also a columnist for the National Police Association. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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