January 15-18, 2009 - Interview with Officer Kyle Russel

Published January 15th, 2009

Officer Kyle Russel
Alexandria, Va., Police Department
Las Vegas SHOT Show
Orlando, Fla.
January 15-18, 2009

Stockton: Hi, I’m Dale Stockton, editor of Law Officer Magazine. We’re at the Orlando SHOT Show, and with me today is Kyle Russel of the Alexandria, Va., Police Department. Officer Russel this last year had an incident where his vest saved his life, and we’re going to talk to him about that. So Kyle, tell us what happened.

Russel: I’m a field training officer and I was training a brand-new officer that night. We were actually on 395 a stretch of highway right outside of Washington, D.C. We’d been on a call out of our area and we were on our way back to our beat. And a Lexus, brand-new car, flew past us on the highway, all over the road. Very erratic, very high speeds, like running cars off the road, somehow managed to not hit anybody. We lit it up. Eventually, he pulled over. He kept going on a little ways, he kept slowing down, speeding up. Very strange, and eventually he went from the far left lane all the way to the right. Slammed on his brakes. I told my rookie officer to mark “out” with a possibly intoxicated driver. I had already hopped out the car, I had a weird feeling about it. I wanted to make sure I got the keys from the drive. I suspected he was either highly highly intoxicated or having a diabetic seizure and was going into shock. I approached the car on the passenger side on the highway, I really don’t like a driver side approach on the highway, and I looked back to see where my rookie officer was and he was just getting out of his vehicle. I approached the car and I looked in with my light. His hands were on his lap and he was vomiting from the mouth, he had blood on his face. I looked in and I said “hey man, are you okay?” and he looked up at me and growled and said like “Hi,” while he looked at me and he reached under his leg and shot me once in the chest. Forty-five caliber round, hit me right here. I knew I was hit immediately, fortunately I was able to duck back. There was a guardrail on the side and I dove for the guardrail for some cover. I figured he was going to get out of the car and engage me so I wanted to have a little bit of cover. I drew my weapon and I looked back up. He had immediately fled. He was probably about 25 30 yard up the highway flying. I marked out with all the information on the vehicle. My rookie gave the state the tag. I gave the driver information and everything about it. And a little ways down the road he shot himself in the head. They actually went to make notification to his wife that he had shot a police officer and killed himself and it was at that time that they realized she had been murdered. She was later found by him inside the apartment right before I pulled him over. We had no idea that had happened. In the car, we found not only the .45 caliber he shot me with but a Bushmaster M4 and he had several loaded magazines, locked and loaded, and he had recently just been discharged from the Old Guard unit in the military. So that was the direction he was heading, on 395.

Stockton: You wear your vest all the time?

Russel: All the time. I never go to work without it. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that if I hadn’t been wearing that vest, there’s no way I would be alive. A round in the chest like that, they said it would have missed my heart by about two inches. There’s no way I would have lived through it.

Stockton: What do you say to the guys that say “I carry it in the car; it gets too hot; if I need it, I’ll put it on” ?

Russel: I mean, that’s the dumbest thing you could ever say. I mean, I’m living proof, that’s the reason, you never know when it could be your day. And that was just a normal day for us. It was a Tuesday night. You never know what’s going to happen. What would you rather be, too hot or be alive? But I always wear mine, and everybody with Safariland and [unintelligible] and Second Chance, I really thank them for saving my life.

Stockton: Well, we can’t thank you enough for what you do. We really appreciate you being here today.

Russel: Thank you very much.