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Author Topic: Then a humble Flex-Cuf to the rescue!  (Read 1186 times)


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Then a humble Flex-Cuf to the rescue!
« on: October 14, 2006, 08:41:32 PM »

A crippling shotgun ambush—then a humble Flex-Cuf to the rescue!
By Chuck Remsberg

Is a Flex-Cuf good for anything besides temporary restraint? How about for saving a severely wounded officer’s life? For Deputy Ed Martin, one of those simple little nylon strips became the ultimate example of the old Street Survival mantra, “Improvise…Adapt…and Overcome.”

On a graveyard shift that began quietly last June 30, a surprise shotgun blast from an offender who had already murdered three people tore into Martin’s left arm, ruptured an artery and sent him reeling toward the brink of death. “If it wasn’t for that Flex-Cuf,” he told PoliceOne recently, “we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Martin, 40, was one of four deputies with the Jefferson County SD on patrol early that morning in the 970 square miles surrounding Beaumont, Texas. He’d just paid his breakfast tab at an all-night IHOP not far from the department when his radio crackled with a dispatch at 0326 hrs. A domestic disturbance was reported at a private residence a couple of miles outside the one-stoplight hamlet of China (pop. 1,100), about 20 miles west of the restaurant.

Deputy Luther Bracken, who’d eaten with Martin and was working a unit that roved as backup among the county’s three vast beats that shift, said he’d follow along once he’d paid his check. Martin set out alone, Code 3.

En route, the dispatcher radioed him that the situation “sounds like it’s getting worse.” The unidentified complainant, calling from inside the dwelling, had set the phone down with the line still open. The dispatcher could now hear “hollering, screaming, doors slamming” and other signs of a major, escalating ruckus.

About 15 minutes after the original dispatch, Martin reached the scene, a modest one-story brick house with carport, set among rice fields and cattle pastures along the sparsely settled North China Rd. A pickup truck was parked in the long driveway, just far enough in from the asphalt road that Martin could squeeze his patrol car up behind it.

“It seemed odd that the truck was so far from the house, like whoever came in it didn’t want anyone to know they were pulling up,” he remembers. “Like maybe a kid coming home late and hoping to sneak in—or an intruder.”

What really troubled him, though, was the quiet. “If people are hollering and screaming enough for someone to call the police,” he says, “the fight is usually still going on when you get there—arguing and name calling, cussing and throwing things.” But this house was eerily silent, and he could detect no sign of movement inside. I don’t like this, he thought. Something’s wrong here.

He locked his patrol car as protection against anyone circling behind him and accessing several weapons he had inside, then started across the yard toward the residence. Except for a light on “somewhere in the back of the house,” the scene was pitch black: moon behind clouds, no yard lights, no road lights. “After you work nights so long, you get pretty good at seeing in the dark,” Martin says. He kept his flashlight off, and kept his hand on his 40-cal. Glock 22.

The front entrance consisted of a glass storm door, which led to a narrow, unlit, enclosed passageway about 41/2 ft. long. At the end of this was a solid wooden door to the living space. Martin didn’t like this arrangement, either (“I don’t like being caught in boxes”), but he opened the storm door anyway, turned on his flashlight and stepped in.

The passageway wasn’t wide enough for him to take a position fully to the side of the house door. He did note, however, that the door was hung to open inward, so as the storm door closed behind him, he at least stood on the side of the house door opposite its hinges, hoping to be out of the immediate field of view of anyone who opened it from inside.

At 6 ft. 7 in. and 275 lbs., though, he was hard to hide. His best bet, he figured, was to knock and then retreat outside the storm door and conduct the contact from there. He rapped. “Sheriff’s Department!”

He got no more than a half-step back when “as fast as you can snap your fingers” the door was flung open and a man beyond the threshold blasted a round at him from a .12-ga. pump shotgun. The barrel was just inches away.

Most of the 00 pellets ripped through the upper left pocket of his uniform shirt and bored through the first layer of his soft body armor. Three “ricocheted off each other” and tore into the inside of his left bicep. His mid-forearm, raised gripping the flashlight, took the brunt of gases, pressure and wadding exploding from the barrel. The impact gouged out a chunk of his arm about 8 in. long, 4 in. wide and the depth of a deck of cards, inflicting nerve and tendon damage that instantly incapacitated his arm and hand. “All the meat just evaporated,” Martin explains. The flashlight clattered to the floor.

“You son-of-a-bitch!” Martin screamed. He fired back five fast rounds. Two hit his attacker, one in the hand and the other glancing off the shotgun into his chest. Without speaking a word, the suspect jammed the shotgun into his mouth and pulled the trigger. Pieces of flesh and skull sprayed out like a bursting melon. The man collapsed across the doorway, dead.

The threat emphatically neutralized, Martin looked at his arm. “I could see muscles and tendons laid bare in my forearm,” he says. “My upper arm was pumping out bright red blood. The pellets had severed an artery. As it turned out, the artery had been sliced in my forearm, too, but that wasn’t bleeding so bad because the blood was being lost before it got there.”

Martin radioed for help and hurried toward his patrol car, more than 100 feet away. He figured he might rig up a tourniquet with the sling from his AR-15 that was locked inside in an overhead rack. But when he got to the car door, he discovered the key was missing. His key ring had fallen from his belt keeper and was lying somewhere in the grass of the darkened yard. He whipped out his expandable baton and shattered the window.

Inside, the rifle strap proved to be a formidable obstacle to a man with only one working hand and an appallingly rapid loss of blood. The sling was lashed tightly to the rifle with a nylon cord, and Martin’s fumbling fingers couldn’t get it untied. “If I’d been thinking clearer, I had a dagger stuck in an air vent,” he says. “I could have cut it with that.”

One option that did flash to mind was to use the cord of his shoulder mic in an effort to stanch the relentless bleeding, but he was reluctant to do that for fear of losing radio contact with his dispatcher. He tried to calm himself to get his heart rate down, “but it’s hard to do after you’ve been in a firefight.”

Then, nearly three desperate minutes after Martin’s call for help, Deputy Bracken skidded to a stop at the scene. “We’ve got to get something around my arm,” Martin exclaimed when Bracken reached the blood-soaked patrol car.

“I think I’ve got a Flex-Cuf,” Bracken said.

“Go get it!”

Once the tie was cinched around Martin’s upper arm, the gushing blood subsided significantly. But the Flex-Cuf, of course, could not be loosened once it was tightened and fixed in place. “I knew if the blood was shut off too long, I potentially could lose my arm,” Martin says. “But at that particular moment, I was more concerned about bleeding to death.”

And rightly so. Doctors told Martin later that another five minutes of uncontrolled blood loss would have cost him his life. The Flex-Cuf, in effect, pulled him back from the brink.

Soon, Martin received professional medical help. First a Stat-Care EMS crew started IV and meds, then an air-rescue helicopter that had been dispatched to an MVA in the area was diverted to the scene.

Not yet certain whether his wounds were survivable, Martin handed his wedding ring to Bracken and his badge to a flight nurse and told both to deliver the items to no one but his wife. But conscious thoughts of his spouse and three young children fueled his will to survive.

As the chopper “hot loaded” Martin to a hospital O.R. in Beaumont, Bracken and Sgt. Bruce Koch searched the house and soon discovered the grim circumstances behind the shotgun attack.

The pickup truck Martin had noted in the driveway belonged to 52-year-old Richard Jennings, the offender who fired on the deputy and then killed himself in the doorway. The house was occupied by his estranged wife and their three children. Before Martin was able to reach the scene, Jennings, angered over a decision by his 43-year-old wife to divorce him after 15 years of marriage, fatally gunned down her and two of their children, a boy 11 and a girl 7. He fired at their 13-year-old son as well, but the boy managed to escape the rampage and ran to a neighbor’s. A 7-year-old best friend of the Jennings girl, who was at the house for a sleepover, was found hiding behind a curtain by the searchers, terrified but unharmed. By showing up when he did, Sheriff Mitch Woods said, Martin probably saved her life.

According to relatives, Jennings, who had been divorced once before, “thought he was losing everything.” Ironically, his father had killed his wife, too, strangling her after 44 years of wedded torment. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and drew probation and a $1,000 fine.

Two months after the shooting, Martin was presented the Star of Texas Award at the capitol in Austin. This recognition honors first responders “who made profound commitments while on the job.” PoliceOne talked to him the next day.

He has been through multiple surgeries in an effort to repair his badly damaged left arm, and faces more operations and innumerable grueling sessions of physical therapy. Even then, it’s questionable whether he will ever regain full use of his left hand. Nonetheless, Martin is determined to return to full duty as an LEO, even, he insists, if it means amputating his injured arm and replacing it with a sophisticated prosthesis that would give him more normal functionality.

Meanwhile, he has had many days and nights to reflect on what happened when he responded to the house of horrors on China Rd. and became the first Jefferson County deputy shot in the line of duty in recent memory. When he does get back on patrol, perhaps a year from now, he intends to bring with him some lessons from that call.

1. Trust your gut. “Nothing about this call seemed right,” Martin says. Yet, he is quick to point out, some of his tactics failed to reflect appropriate caution. In particular, he says, he could have avoided the fatal funnel of the front passageway by pounding on the outer storm door rather than advancing to the inner door. Then he could have kept well to the side of the doorway and had more time to deal with surprises. “I’ll never get in a deadly box again,” he vows.

2. Wear your vest. On the plus side, a promise Martin made to his wife years ago to “always wear my vest anytime I put on my uniform or anything else that says ‘Law Enforcement’” paid off big time. “If my vest hadn’t stopped that big cluster of buckshot it probably would have blown out my left lung—maybe worse. You have to be insane not to wear soft body armor these days. Yeah, it’s hot in Texas. But I never heard of anybody die from sweat. In the worst case scenario, you’d drop a few pounds, and I don’t know many of us who couldn’t afford that.”

3. Value anger. “I was pissed off that he shot me, got the drop on me,” Martin says. “I don’t like losing and I don’t give up easy.” His anger, he’s convinced, had a lot to do with his determination to stop the threat and stay alive.

4. Accept first-responder responsibility. “Ask yourself, ‘Who’s the first responder if you’re shot?’” Martin suggests. “It’s not some other officer or an EMT. It’s you. You have to be your own first responder until better help arrives.” Accepting that reality means you need to know how to administer your own first aid for gunshot wounds and edged weapon injuries, and you should explore and reinforce your life-saving options when you “rehearse” crisis scenarios in your mind.

5. Embrace a survival mind-set. “We grow up watching tv and movies where people drop dead after they’re shot one time,” says Martin. “Subliminally, that drills into your mind, whether you admit it or not. The back of your brain tells you, If you get shot you’re gonna die.

“As part of your training, you need to develop a survival mind-set to counteract that thinking. Otherwise, if you’re shot you may resign yourself to believing you’re doomed—and then you will be.

“Out there in the dark, I was bleeding like a stuck pig. But I was not ready to die. I had a wife and kids to go home to. I told myself, ‘Not here, not now.’ If you take a hit, it’s not necessarily the end of your life. I’m living proof of that. But you’ve got to fight for it, believing you can win.”


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Re: Then a humble Flex-Cuf to the rescue!
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2006, 09:12:41 AM »

Just one of the reasons I keep a pack of 10 Flex cuffs in my S.E.R.T.
team ready bag that I had to buy on my own. During the Special Emergency Response Team academy that I went through from the 9th of October to the 13th at the prison I work at they showed us how to use Flex Cuffs to make a splint using colapsable batons or news papers, they can also be used to hold a compression bandage in place as well.
Even though the S.E.R.T. team uses the newer double Flex Cuffs we still keep the single strand ones around because they are so versital.
Oh and you can use them as restaints as well.   ;D