Vargas: Luck isn’t enough for some to survive a career in law enforcement


Last week, you may have seen or heard about two incidents involving two very lucky police officers being shot.

In Huntington Beach on Friday, officers attempted to stop a domestic violence suspect from fleeing the area. The suspect drove away only to turn around and shoot at the responding officers. One shot went through the windshield of a patrol unit, hitting the officer in the chest.

The bullet luckily was deflected by the officer’s badge.

The officer continued to chase the suspect, and the pursuit eventually ended in the Cajon Pass when the suspect was killed in a fiery crash. The officer didn’t realize he had been shot until after the incident.

A Huntington Beach officer was shot during a pursuit on Friday, and was saved when the bullet deflected off his badge. Photo courtesy Huntington Beach PD.

A Huntington Beach officer was shot during a pursuit on Friday, and was saved when the bullet deflected off his badge. Photo courtesy Huntington Beach PD.

That same day, a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper was conducting a traffic stop when the driver jumped out of his car and started running. The officer chased after the armed suspect, who turned around and shot him in the chest.

The bullet luckily also was deflected by his badge.

The suspect was shot and killed by the officer during the chase.

Across the country, headlines were posted about how “lucky” these officers were.

What everyone misses is the fact that police officers are shot at just about every day in this country.

Whether because of training, vigilance and yes, sometimes sheer dumb luck, officers are able to survive these potentially deadly encounters.

Here are just some examples of lucky officers this past week:

A DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputy in Georgia made a car stop only to have the driver get out of his vehicle and shoot at the deputy while he was checking the vehicle tags. The suspect was arrested the next day.

A Corrigan, Texas police officer was on a car stop when the driver engaged the officer in a gunfight. The suspect then rammed the officer’s vehicle while fleeing the scene. The suspect is still outstanding.

In Chicago, an officer attempted to question a pedestrian when the armed suspect took off running and fired shots at the officer. The suspect eventually was located and arrested. During a court hearing a few days later, the suspect yelled out in the courtroom, “I should have shot his a@#!”

In Detroit, two officers were conducting a gambling investigation when their squad car was hit by gunfire from an AK-47 assault rifle. The officers were uninjured, and the suspect turned himself in a day later.

In Miami, an officer attempted to pull over a stolen vehicle. Two armed suspects in the car opened fire and fled the area. The officer’s vehicle was struck multiple times.

In Louisiana,  state troopers were chasing a stolen vehicle when three men got out and opened fire. A trooper chased one suspect into an alley, where the suspect shot the trooper in the elbow. Responding officers eventually tracked down the man, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound during the confrontation.

In Elkhart County, IN, two officers were shot at while gassing up their cars at a filling station. No suspects are in custody, and the investigation is ongoing.

We can’t forget that despite luck, skill and training, tragedy can still strike.

This past week in Maryville, TN, Officer Kenny Moats was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance.

Moats and another officer arrived at a home where the suspect was arguing with his father.

They safely parked their car approximately 70 yards from the residence and assisted one person from the home before taking cover behind their car. As they waited for patrol units to arrive, the suspect opened fire, striking Moats in the neck.

Moats was a nine-year veteran of law enforcement who left behind a wife and three children.

Police work is a dangerous business.

Every day police officers are being shot at, stabbed, hit and run over by cars.

For the most part, police officers are very “lucky.”

Most of them get to go home at the end of the day.

Tragically, for some, luck just isn’t enough.