Officer Down: Backup guns and body armor

Before you comment; we’re not interested in any punditry about the tactics employed here. One of our own was killed. If you want to talk about it professionally in order to keep from making any mistakes you may glean from what occurred, we encourage it. This is not an invitation to Monday morning quarterback CPD or the officers involved. However. There are lessons to be learned here, and however much it might feel as though we’re being critical of Sgt. Chapin or anyone else, we owe it to ourselves and other officers to learn from what happened.

“To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.”  Voltaire

We’ve received some information to flesh out what happened in Chattanooga a couple of months back and there are a couple of important things to take note of.  You may recall that CPD Sgt. James Chapin, 51, was murdered during a running gun battle early in April He was responding for a call for service involving an armed robbery of a financial business on Brainerd Road, in the CPD’s “Delta” patrol zone. Apparently when officers arrived on scene they began to take rounds immediately. The suspect, Jesse Matthews, was already wanted for robbery charges in Colorado. One officer was struck in the vest during this exchange and another wounded, and at some point the suspect went back inside the business. When Sgt. Chapin arrivee, he drove his vehicle to the side of the business. His arrival coincided with the suspect exiting a side door. It would appear that the sergeant, who knew at least one officer had been shot, elected to hit the suspect with his patrol car (which is certainly reasonable, if it was faster and safer to do so than stop the vehicle, exit and draw his weapon). The suspect was hit by the car and fell to the ground, apparently losing control of his weapon. The gun skidded across the concrete several feet away.

Sgt. Chapin exited his vehicle and, presumably seeing that the suspect was now apparently unarmed, deployed a Taser. Though both Taser prongs struck the suspect, it had no effect. It was later learned that the suspect was wearing a soft-armor style concealed bulletproof vest (unknown make or protective level at this time). The suspect reached into his waistband and produced a second (backup) gun and fired several rounds at Sgt. Chapin, one of which struck him in the head and killed him. Other officers responding returned fire and critically wounded the suspect, who is in a coma.

A couple of things about this that all of us On The Job need to keep in mind:

1. The suspect was wearing a vest that was concealed under his clothing.

2. The suspect was carrying a back upgun.

Multiple studies have shown that many violent offenders train more frequently with their firearms than the average patrolman. Officers are being murdered at a higher rate in 2011 than we’ve seen in over a decade, many times in groups rather than by themselves, and the assholes out there are increasingly better armed, better equipped and tactically proficient. We cannot do anything now for Sgt. Chapin except pray for his family and learn from the events that surrounded his death. There’s no point on passing judgment on his actions or tactics, we weren’t there, but perhaps this lesson, paid for with the blood of a veteran preparing to retire, will keep someone else On The Job from dying in the line of duty.

Be safe. Watch out for each other. Remember the One More Rule: if there’s one suspect, there damn sure may be One More. If there’s one gun, there damn sure may be One More. Be careful out there, they’re killing us.


Rest In Peace Sgt. James Timothy Chapin. You’ve earned it.

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