'Ambushed' St. Louis Officer: God Told Me To Put On Vest
He was shot in the line of duty. The St. Louis police chief called it an ambush.
The police officer who was shot in July spoke for the first time on television since the shooting, asking that his name not be used out of concern for the safety of his family.
"It was a hot St. Louis July night like so many others I've worked before," the officer recalls. But while it may have started out ordinary, his overnight shift on July 14 was nearly his last.
Working his side job providing security in the Central West End, after a long regular shift for the department, the heat was taking its toll and the officer had taken off his bullet proof vest. He had done "rounds" in the upscale entertainment district for about two hours, checking doors and locking gates, when he noticed some individuals on the street around 4:30 a.m.
"They were just walking. There was nothing particular about them but the hairs on my neck stood up," he recalls. "And at that point there was a voice that told me grab my vest. I know it was God." He put the vest back on and says the decision saved his life.
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The 16-year veteran won't talk specifics of the shootout that followed because four suspects are still facing charges. But he believes they saw his police uniform and targeted him because of it.
The official department account is that the suspects pulled up next to the officer's vehicle and one opened fire on him. The officer fired back and more than a dozen shots in all were exchanged. The officer chased his alleged attacker long enough to get a description — knowing he had been hit.
"I realized I was shot." And he said that's when he began praying for "the peace of mind to stay alive" for his young son and his wife.
"And my prayers were answered," the 39-year-old sergeant said.
The vest he decided to put on had stopped the bullet near his ribs.
After the shooting, Police Chief Sam Dotson said the officer had a non-life-threatening injury. Dotson credited the vest with saving the officer.
Doctors have cleared the officer to returned to work as far as any physical injuries are concerned. But he said counseling continues for wounds that are deeper and hopes to be back on the beat by September.
"I know it sounds funny, but I'm glad that I stood in the gap of someone else not being a victim of these individuals wanting to cause crime in the neighborhood. I'm glad I was there to stop them from doing that and make an arrest on these guys before they hurt anybody else."
When asked whether he would stand in that gap again, without hesitation, he said, "absolutely."
The officer has received support from the community.
The officer was working from his personal car when he was shot. The vehicle was shot at least 14 times. A clothing store donated a replacement car, he said.
Contributing: Bailey E. Kinney, KSDK-TV, St. Louis.