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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Jacksonville, Florida 01/26/2008

Working a department-sanctioned security job Det. Jared Reston ended up in the fight of his life.

April 29, 2010  |  by - Also by this author


Units had already started rolling when Brown made an emergency broadcast. Now, Reston keyed his own mic and spoke as well as he could with a broken jaw that there was an officer down.

Darkness was falling with the only illumination of the culvert from streetlights: Neither officer could get a good view of Abner. As cautiously as possible, Brown made a tactical approach of the culvert. Finding Abner deceased, Brown turned his attentions to his downed partner.

Reston was subsequently transported to Shands Jacksonville Medical Center. Lying on the gurney, Reston spit crimson globs of the blood that was pooling inside his mouth. It gave him something to focus on and to keep himself conscious.

He'd just won one fight, and wanted to make sure that he'd still be around to fight another.

Wounds and Recovery

Reston survived. But having three quarters of his jaw blown away proved a life changing event for the detective. His jaw was wired shut for nine weeks before the first surgery. Today, he still has scars from the exit wounds on his neck and chin, but the surgeons reconstructed his face well.

Among the numerous procedures that Reston had to endure were two surgeries just to clear infections in his neck. Rehab to his leg and ribcage went well. His butt hurt like hell and he couldn't walk, but the wound was fine. He spent some time home nursing, replacing packing and bandages three times a day. Doctors used bone from his hip and plates to pin his jaw in place. He still wears braces and may face additional corrective surgeries. He lost five teeth because of the shooting and nerve damage has caused numbness in his lower jaw. He lives with pain in his legs and buttocks.

Throughout the quarter-mile foot pursuit, Reston had watched Abner's movements, anything that might hint at any danger above and beyond the youth's being a shoplifter. But there'd been nothing, no tell-tale reach for the waistband, nothing to make Reston's hair stand on end during the foot chase.

Looking back, Reston believes the gun may have been hidden in the front pocket of the suspect's hoodie. In hindsight, he believes that Abner was working up a resolve to kill well before the foot pursuit:

Security footage from the mall shows Abner repeatedly approaching mall security with his hands in his front pockets, then retreating, as if building up courage to attack them.

As it was, Reston never heard the first shot. He'd seen a disorienting flash, but nothing demonstrably different than when he'd taken it on the chin in fights before. It wasn't until he'd fallen that he realized that he'd been shot.

That round turned out to be the first of 13 bullets fired by Abner in the wannabe gangster's attempt to make the grade as a bad ass.

It wasn't for lack of effort that he failed in his attempt to kill Reston. The officer was struck a total of seven times. One bullet entered his left thigh and exited near the hip. One to his chin, exited out his neck. One to his left buttock, lodged next to his hip. One hit his right elbow. And three across his chest were stopped by his American Body Armor (Safariland) Xtreme XT body armor. One of the chest shots hit the armor plate on the center of Reston's chest, which he didn't feel at all. One shot to his ribs left a bruise, but both would have been fatal without the armor.

Reston says that while some veteran officers on his department forego wearing a vest, he makes it a habit to wear one anytime he is uniform, whether working on-duty or in an off-duty capacity, such as the day he was at the mall.

Hits and Misses

For his part, Reston fired 14 rounds, striking Abner seven times. One round hit Abner in the right shoulder; another, his right thigh before tearing into his stomach. One hit the suspect's back and traveled out the shoulder, while another traversed up through the ribcage before severing an artery in Abner's neck. Reston believes this shot may have been the round that caused Abner to fall toward him.

The incident lasted about 90 seconds, with the firefight comprising a mere five seconds of that span.

This was not Det. Reston's first shooting, and he feels that his prior experience helped him respond more assuredly in this situation. Whereas he'd experienced tunnel vision during his first shooting, during the Abner shooting everything played out without any demonstrative impact on his senses, save for a lack of ringing in his ears in its aftermath. It was as though his mind was registering everything accurately and processing it accordingly.

That's not to say there wasn't an added dimension this time, though. For as soon as Reston realized that he'd been seriously injured, he got pissed off. Not to the point of blind rage, but to a level where his adrenaline worked for him. He knew that he needed to end this firefight as soon as possible before he was fatally wounded. If he could move, think, and return fire, he was going to stay in the fight.

Reston counts a great many factors as having come into play in his surviving the incident, not the least of which was his ballistic vest. He is also thankful for his training, mental conditioning, and prior experience. But even his physical conditioning had paid off in unanticipated ways.

Reston's excellent physical conditioning-honed by a natural desire to stay in shape as well as the obligations imposed by his SWAT training-helped prevent Reston suffering even greater injuries. The bullet that traveled up his leg passed along a path of least resistance, paralleling alongside the sinews of muscle before terminating in a non-threatening portion of his body. That same muscle mass helped to slow down the bullets once they entered his body, and likewise helped to minimize the pain he would have otherwise felt. It also factored considerably in his body's ability to heal and be rehabilitated.

"Working out, you have to condition yourself to come out of this type of situation alive," Reston says. "It happens all the time. I trained at the range on my own time, developed a warrior mindset. You can't sit back and hope that something never happens to you.

"I always planned for the possibility of one day getting shot and how I would  respond, how I would react on the radio. Dispatch isn't going to come through the line to help you. You've got to do what you've got to do."

Among the many awards and recognitions Det. Jared Reston received for his heroic actions that day: The State of Florida Law Enforcement Officer of the Year; the National Police Hall of Fame and Museum National Officer of the Year; and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Officer of the Year. He continues to serve Jacksonville County. 

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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Al Blais @ 4/18/2013 1:17 PM

I met Detective Reston yesterday during a VALOR training session. He is an inspiration to law enforcement officers and a stunning example of how training and the will to survive can get you through the worst situations. His words inspired me to keep myself fit and alert, which becomes more difficult with each passing year. Thank you for your outstanding public service!

Al Blais
Supervisory Police Officer
Dept of the Air Force Police
Hanscom AFB, MA

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