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Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton is a 33-year law enforcement veteran, a trainer, and the national spokesman for The American Council on Public Safety. He served 10 years with the Princeton (N.J.) Police Department and 23 years with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, retiring at the rank of lieutenant. He is an author who has published multiple books on law enforcement.
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Patrol

Sometimes, the Pain Comes Later

Hidden hurts can be deadly.

July 07, 2008  |  by - Also by this author

When our fight or flight response is activated, sequences of nerve cell firing occur and chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol are released into our bloodstream. Should we become injured, our vessels constrict to reduce blood loss, and our body produces muscle-enhancing hormones.

If there is a downside to our internal alchemy that converts trauma into healing, pain into numbness, it is that we may not realize how severely injured we are until it is too late.

So long as we are being actively aggressed upon, we will first and foremost have to concern ourselves with the threat. But once that threat has either been neutralized or we have removed ourselves from it, we need to take stock of ourselves.

For there have been seriously injured officers who didn't know they were.

San Antonio Police Officer Dave Evans was one of them. In the aftermath of an incident wherein a suspect assaulted himself and three fellow officers, Evans really didn't realize that he had been shot.

"I just thought IĀ got a good butt-kicking," he later recalled.

Even President Reagan didn't know how close that he'd been shot during the attempt on his life in 1981 until he got to George Washington University Hospital.

In conducting interviews with the officers profiled in my Shots Fired columns, I was surprised at how many either didn't know that they'd been injured, or if they knew they'd been injured, didn't know where their injuries were located, or their severity.

But not everyone who is shot and doesn't realize the severity of their injuries is so fortunate as to be able to reflect on their initial lack of concern.

Although wounded himself by a suspect armed with an assault rifle, a Mississippi sergeant waved off responding paramedics, directing them to attend to another officer who'd been shot. Seconds later, the sergeant himself expired from a gunshot wound to his femoral artery.

When two Brooklyn detectives observed a vehicle blow a red light in Brooklyn, they attempted a stop of the vehicle, precipitating a pursuit. At one point, they pulled alongside the suspect vehicle and were fired upon at least five times by a passenger in the car. A round struck the driver detective under his left arm and passed between the front and back panel of his bullet resistant vest and struck his heart.

Despite the injury, the detective continued the chase, an act that cost him precious seconds as he was subsequently transported to Kings County Hospital where he succumbed to his injury. One has to wonder if he'd driven directly to the hospital if he might have improved his chances for survival. As it was, he survived some six hours.

Fights are notorious sources for officer injuries, and more than one officer has unwittingly grabbed a combatant to belatedly find that the suspect was armed with a knife.

If you find yourself involved in a shooting or some other violent incident, don't just assume all's well that end's well. Inventory yourself and your partner.

May you always be pleasantly surprised to find that your initial impressions of not being injured are correct.


Comments (4)

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

fmangual @ 7/7/2008 6:27 PM

During a narcotic controlled delivery, I was shot in my left arm with a .223 round and I did not realized it until I ran for cover and felt my arm hitting my chest. There was no pain or discomfort, still today( this happened 16 years ago) I do not recall when I got hit.

fmangual @ 7/7/2008 6:27 PM

During a narcotic controlled delivery, I was shot in my left arm with a .223 round and I did not realized it until I ran for cover and felt my arm hitting my chest. There was no pain or discomfort, still today( this happened 16 years ago) I do not recall when I got hit.

David Moore S-55 @ 7/7/2008 7:05 PM

Excellent Article. It is amazing what happens to folks and they keep moving through the pain (Survival Fight or flight kicks in). The unwanted price of combat.
Thanks!

ehyde @ 7/14/2008 10:53 AM

This is a great article. Thank you. I was shot in January of this year during a foot pursuit of a local gang member. He led me down an alley and shot me at a range of approximately 6 feet. I, as opposed to others who have been shot, actually knew where I was shot. I returned fire, crawled to cover (I had been shot twice in the hip and couldn't walk), and put out my appropriate radio traffic. I was still in the "fight or flight" mode until officers arrived to take over the scene. I was still in the alley so they dragged me to safety and scooped me up. That was the moment my overdrive slowed down and I took inventory of my injuries. I obviously survived but didn't know for many hours if I would. The big lesson for me was this: how you train is how you will perform under stress. I performed great that day...I did everything I had been taught...and survived. Thank you to all the FTO's and trainers who teach. Your training saved my life. ---Gardena Officer.

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