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3 times training and body armor saved police in 2014

As we head into 2015, remember that training and wearing your body armor are two of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones

The year is not quite done yet and while there has been a lot of bad news in LE this year — officer deaths are up, for example — there has been good news. In my home state of Minnesota, at least three cops are alive because they wore their vest. What makes the news even a little better for me, personally, is that two of them are my former students.

1. In February, Deputy Dustin Alexander of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle. He contacted the male and female in the car, got their IDs, ran them, and when he returned to the car, the male shot Deputy Alexander in the chest. He was struck in the vest which stopped the bullet. He moved to cover and returned fire as the vehicle drove off about 50 yards before it lost control, ran off the road and got stuck.

The couple then fled the scene on foot, and attempted entry into a private residence. They were stopped by two armed homeowners, so they continued to flee into a wooded area as backup officers arrived on scene and more shots were fired. The couple was later found dead, and it was discovered they’d made a suicide pact prior to the incident.

2. In April, Norman County Deputy Nathan Warner was also dispatched to a suspicious vehicle. At the scene, he located two men from out of state in a pickup truck. After running their identification, it was determined that the passenger had a warrant. The suspect was placed under arrest and placed in the rear of the squad car.

While dealing with the situation, Warner returned back to the truck several times to talk to the driver, the brother of the arrested passenger. As he turned and walked back to his squad car the final time, the brother produced a .45 caliber pistol and shot a number of rounds at him, one of them striking Warner in the back of his body armor. He moved to cover and returned fire, striking the back window of the fleeing suspect’s vehicle. The suspect drove a short distance, abandoned the truck and hid until responding officers were able to locate and arrest him in nearby.

3. In September, officers from Crookston PD, Minnesota State Patrol and Polk County responded to a 911 call reporting shots fired inside a residence in rural Polk County. As officers talked with witnesses outside the house, the suspect opened fire from inside the home, striking a Polk County deputy. His vest stopped the round. Officers returned fire; the suspect was wounded and taken into custody.

Giving Thanks
I’m thankful that the officers are all alive due to their personal choice to wear their vests. As a result, we all received a great gift: their lives. We should all be reminded of the gift of concealable body armor. It has been around for decades, its’ life saving benefits have been proven over a thousand times and yet some officers still do not wear their body armor.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak to Deputies Alexander and Warner regarding their shootings. In both cases they commented on aspects of their training that they received at our college.

Alexander remarked that after he was shot he remembered one of our training mantra:

“Move, Find Cover, Return Fire When Appropriate.”

As a trainer, it never ceases to amaze me how our former students will tap into those memories of our training in these life and death situations.

In Deputy Warner case, he had the benefit of additional training in the academy in Montana to combine with the training he received from us. He commented that as the suspect vehicle was driving away and he was aiming at the drivers head rest, he was thinking, “Front sight, front sight, front sight” — a commonly repeated phrase on our range. He was able to put 15 out of 16 rounds into the left third of the rear window as the vehicle fled the scene.

So as we head into 2015 remember that training and wearing your body armor are two of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones.

In February 2014, Duane Wolfe retired from his career as a Minnesota Peace Officer after more than 25 years of service (beginning in 1988). During his career, he served as a patrolman, sergeant, S.R.T., use of force and firearms instructor. He was a full-time law enforcement instructor at Alexandria Technical & Community College in Alexandria, Minnesota for 28 years. Duane has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Bemidji State University and a Masters Degree in Education from Southwest State University.