A St. Louis police officer who was the subject of an attempted assassination by a masked gunman has credited God for telling him to put on his bulletproof vest moments before the shooting, thus saving his life.
In early July, the 39-year-old sergeant was sitting in his personal car in the Central West End in full uniform after doing rounds in the district for about two hours, checking doors and locking gates. Because of the grueling heat, he had taken off his bullet proof vest a short time earlier.
"It was a hot St. Louis July night like so many others I've worked before," the officer, who asked that his name not be used out of concern for the safety of his family, recalled in a recent TV interview, USA Today reported.
While sitting in his car, he suddenly noticed three suspects walking down the street, according to the NYPost.
"They were just walking. There was nothing particular about them but the hairs on my neck stood up," he said. "And at that point there was a voice that told me grab my vest. I know it was God." The decision to put on his vest, the Sgt said, ultimately saved his life.
Before long, a silver vehicle occupied by the three suspects, as well as another, pulled up directly in front of the Sgt.'s vehicle. A man wearing a black bandanna exited the passenger side of the vehicle and opened fire on the Sgt., striking him in the chest in what another officer called a "brazen act of violence."
The officer reportedly fired back and then chased his alleged attacker long enough to get a description. Although his car was hit a total of 14 times, the vest the officer decided to put on had stopped one bullet near his ribs.
"I realized I was shot." And he said that's when he began praying for "the peace of mind to stay alive" for his young son and his wife.
"And my prayers were answered," he said.
USA Today notes that the 16-year veteran won't talk specifics of the shootout that followed because four suspects are still facing charges. However, he believes they saw his police uniform and targeted him because of it.
Shortly after the incident occurred, Police Chief Sam Dotson told reporters, "They targeted, they ambushed, they tried to assassinate a police officer," he said. "What we saw tonight are individuals that were armed, that targeted a police officer and had no second thoughts, no remorse about it at all."
"What we saw today are guns in the hands of criminals and their willingness to use them," Dotson continued, the Boston Herald reported.
While the officer is physically unharmed, he said counseling continues for wounds that are deeper. He hopes to resumed working in September. Despite the severity of the situation, the Sgt. says he would "absolutely" go through it again if it meant saving the lives of others.
"I know it sounds funny, but I'm glad that I stood in the gap of someone else not being a victim of these individuals wanting to cause crime in the neighborhood," he said. I'm glad I was there to stop them from doing that and make an arrest on these guys before they hurt anybody else."