For the first time, state troopers are speaking about their experience in a dangerous shootout in Talihina earlier this year.
Six troopers suffered gunshot wounds, but Sammy Lee escaped injury, thanks to his bulletproof vest. C.O.P.S. Products presented Lee with a replacement vest on Thursday.
The ballistic vests the tactical team uses weigh 40 pounds and come equipped with a rifle plate that withstands just about any rounds that come their way. The vest is designed to protect in the most dangerous of situations, and back in May it did just that.
On May 11, the OHP tactical team was helping serve a no-knock search warrant for guns at the Talihina home of Bradley Webster, a felon. As soon as they tried to go inside, however, Webster opened fire with an Uzi.
The group of troopers killed the suspect, then retreated as the building started to go up in flames. Their commander calls the scene chaos.
“Both because the suspect had a fully automatic weapon and immediately began firing that full-automatic weapon at our guys, as well as the fire,” says Capt. Tim Tipton.
Some of the team members with military backgrounds say the incident felt more like being back in a warzone than on a routine call.
“We’ve been in several shootings, been shot at several times,” says Trooper Brandon Seward, “nowhere near this close and no one with near that much firepower.
The adrenaline was so high that some troopers did not even notice they had been hit by bullets and debris.
Lee says, “The tactical medics all looked us over. I didn’t feel any injuries at the time, so I wasn’t too concerned about it.”
Upon further inspection, Lee discovered a bullet lodged into the lower right side of his vest, inches away from vital organs. He did not even have a bruise.
Having completed 26 missions so far this year, the tactical team is reminded of the importance of their body armor. Lee is looking forward to once more being fully protected as he works to protect the community.
In addition to the new vest, C.O.P.S. Products and Armor Express also gave Lee an Award of Valor and challenge coins emblazoned with his name and the date of the incident he will never forget.