For his perseverence under fire, Officer Ray Blohm of the Upper Darby (Pa.) Police Department has been selected as the November 2010 Officer of the Month by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
On May 21, 2010 Blohm had been patrolling an area near Philadelphia where a male was suspected of dealing drugs out of a local bar. Just past midnight, the officer watched the man leave the bar, walk to a house along a nearby residential street, and walk back toward the bar. Blohm surmised the suspect was returning with renewed supplies, but what caught his eye was what appeared to be an open container of alcohol in the man's hand. Upon seeing the marked police car, the man attempted to hide the container, all but confirming Blohm's suspicions.
Hoping to catch him off guard, the officer pretended not to notice and looped around the block. Blohm stopped his car in front of the suspect, whom he could now see was also smoking marijuana. The man started to walk in the other direction. Blohm jumped out of the car and asked the suspect to put his hands on the cruiser. Instead, he took off running.
Blohm didn't have time to radio in the call. Expecting that the suspect might resist arrest, the officer took chase down the block with TASER in hand.
"I was yelling verbal commands, 'Stop! You're going to get tazed,' to no avail," remembers Blohm. "Just as I was going to deploy the TASER, he stopped and turned around. Simultaneously as I was pulling the trigger on my TASER, I saw him reaching into his waistband and pulling out a revolver."
Blohm dropped the TASER and began quickly backing away diagonally across the street to put some distance between himself and the suspect and to seek cover. But before he got very far, a cargo van came down the street and stopped directly behind the officer, blocking his escape route. Blohm thinks the driver was unsure of what to do and was afraid of hitting him. Whatever the case, the officer was in a bad spot.
"As I was running around the van and trying to draw my gun, I saw at least two different shots hit me immediately," says Blohm. "I didn't know at the time if they'd hit my vest, or what. I didn't know what being shot, even in the vest, felt like."
The pain didn't stop Blohm, who was soon able to draw his weapon and fire back at the suspect, causing him to retreat. From behind cover, the officer attempted to radio for help, but he wasn't getting a response. Worried the suspect would get away, Blohm reloaded his sidearm and again took chase.
After a couple of blocks, Blohm caught up to the suspect, who collapsed in the street with blood flowing from four bullet wounds and a steady stream of anti-law enforcement profanities flowing from his mouth.
Although the suspect was no longer holding a gun, Blohm held him at gunpoint in case he was hiding another firearm. The officer again tried radioing for help, but realized his left thumb was bleeding and his radio had likely been shot, disabling the mic and speaker. He then used his cell phone to call dispatch directly and request assistance.
Arriving paramedics confirmed Blohm had been shot twice with the suspect's .22, and he was rushed to the hospital. The bullets entered just under his vest, one ricocheting off a vertebra in his spine and resting in his right hip area. Another went through the handcuff pouch and duty belt on his left hip before entering his body. Blohm is now almost fully recovered and expects to return to work this month.
"I trained for it and I prepared myself every day for what happened on that street," says Blohm. "A lot of people say, 'You were lucky.' Yeah, maybe a little bit lucky, but at the same time I think it had a lot to do with how I prepared myself and my training."
The suspect survived, but he's looking at 20 to 70 years behind bars. He pleaded guilty to attempted homicide, assault on law enforcement, possession of a handgun, and possession of narcotics.
In addition to an outpouring of support from fellow officers and members of the community, what helped Blohm work through the shock of his experience was talking to other police officers who have been in shootings.
"It's hard to relate to somebody unless they've been in the same shoes. Even other cops," says Blohm. "I was hanging out with Philly officers who have been shot in the line of duty, and they know, so that's nice. I recommend that."