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To Save A Life
By Ali Kaun - June 24, 2015

On Sunday, May 17 a five-year veteran female police officer was shot in her upper body at 7:40AM near the 7700 block of Mesa College Drive. When two officers attempted to stop the driver of a speeding silver Jeep early Sunday morning, the driver refused to halt and sped off. The chase ended with the suspect bailing out of his car and escaping by foot. Within minutes, the suspect fired and shot the officer. Another officer used a trauma kit immediately, and then loaded the bleeding officer into a squad car for the one block drive to Sharp Memorial Hospital’s emergency room. [1]

The SDPD officer’s use of the trauma kit and the crime scene being in such close proximity to Sharp Hospital saved the injured officer’s life.

*    *    *

“Pastor Miles has a deep passion and resolve to bring hope to our city,” shares Zap Martin, the Deputy Director of Safety at Rock Church, and former San Diego Police Department SWAT team member. “He has built a rapport with our local government officials and has a heart for the officers, firefighters and paramedics of San Diego.”

Under Pastor Miles’ leadership, in 2014 alone, Rock Church members gave 208,883 hours of community service, saving the city and San Diego County taxpayers some $3,766,791.

Last June, Pastor Miles’ wife Debbie, having recently viewed a report of a trauma kit being used to save a fellow officer’s life in Florida, shared with her husband that the SDPD didn’t have access to these kits. Pastor Miles picked up the phone and called San Diego Chief of Police Shelley Zimmerman; he asked her, what her thoughts on trauma kits were and if it was something she thought her department needed. The chief responded with a request for trauma kits.

Trauma kits are lifesaving devices designed for critical wounds inclusive of stab wounds, gunshot wounds and improvised explosive device (IED) wounds. Kits are made up of resources such as tourniquets and specialized gauze, that once used to plug a wound, stop the bleeding and contain it temporarily until injured persons can get to emergency care. They are commonly used in the U.S. Military and some San Diego paramedics have them. Yet for local police officers and SWAT, they have been a scarce commodity because of their expense.

“Trauma kits for SWAT would cost about $100 each, with kits running a bit cheaper for SDPD. Outfitting SWAT, and the entire SDPD with a trauma kit would cost around $50,000,” shares Martin.

Though medics already had the kits, certain crime scenarios could cost officers their lives because of crime scene protocol. "If a police officer is injured in a shooting,” explains Martin, “paramedics cannot render aid to the officer until the scene is deemed safe. There have been circumstances where officers have bled out and died because suspects were still in the area and armed – preventing the medics from coming and giving aid to a downed officer. However, with trauma kits, police officers can give lifesaving care to injured officers in circumstances where it is not safe for paramedics to enter the scene.”

In response to Chief Zimmerman’s request, staff members at Rock Church got to work. “There was a whole group of us who started working on this big project for the SDPD and SWAT Team,” recalls Dina Wessell, Rock Church Administrative Director of Ministries. “Pastor Miles had texted Zap asking, ‘How can we get trauma kits?’ and then conversed with him by phone. Zap then connected with SWAT team supervisors to get more information for Pastor Miles and to get us some hard numbers. We needed to know how many kits were needed, what kind of kits would be most ideal and how much money we should raise.”

“We wanted every San Diego police officer to have a trauma kit,” shared Martin. “But we thought it would be best to equip the SWAT team first—since they already have rescue training, and SWAT's Primary Response Team is on call and in the field twenty-four hours a day, 7 days a week. They would be minutes away from any downed officer in the city at any given time. Once they got the trauma kits, we wanted to roll out a plan for every police division and every officer to receive them too.”

By September 2014, every SWAT team member in San Diego had received a trauma kit.

“I am thankful for the trauma kits,” shares Mike DeWitt, a San Diego SWAT team member and former trainee of Martin, “about three or four months after I received one, I used it to help a deputy that had been shot.”

“Yeah, there were quite a few churches that rallied alongside us when we let them know Chief Zimmerman’s request,” shared Luke Bajenski, Rock Church Global Outreach and Do Something Church Pastor. “It was a beautiful thing. Churches came together across eight denominations and gave $12,870 to help meet our goal of providing seven-hundred trauma kits for SDPD.”

“And because many of the people of Rock Church had been faithful with their tithe, we had the means in our budget to not only give the remaining $38,300 needed for the SDPD trauma kits, but an additional $8,433 for all the SWAT team kits too,” recalls Wessell.

So when, on a Sunday morning mid-May, just eleven months after Chief Zimmerman had responded to Pastor Miles' question of how could he help, news spread quickly that a trauma kit was used to save the life of a downed officer in Kearny Mesa.

“Pastor Miles shared about it during the noon service,” remembers Greg Lloyd, Rock Church LIFE Groups Assistant Pastor, former Captain, and eighteen-year veteran of the San Diego Fire Department. “As a congregation, our hearts swelled. We were so grateful. God had deemed this wasn’t that officer’s day to go and He had used us to bring those daily risking their lives in our community, real hope. We got to be a part of saving a life.”

Shares Chief Zimmerman, “Rock Church and its members have always been a support of law enforcement and the San Diego Police Department. Our relationship is an excellent example of community partnerships. The members of the San Diego Police Department are forever grateful.”

POSTSCRIPT: Rock Church takes safety seriously and is committed to helping other churches and organizations get equipped to do the same. The Rock Church Safety Ministry recently hosted their fourth annual Rock Safety Conference June 17-18 at the Point Loma Campus. Over seventy-five different churches have attended this conference in the past, along with law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and Department of Defense employees. Attendees glean insightful information from retired SWAT Sergeants, Fire Chiefs, Fire Captains, Church Security Directors, District Attorneys, Public Relations Representatives, lawyers, FBI Agents, Bomb Squads, Anti-Terrorism Officers, and Insurance Specialists. Topics covered included Pastoral Protection, Children Ministry Safety, PR Response to Crisis, Terrorism Trends, Church Leadership, Volunteer Development, Site Assessments, Church Legal Action, Active Shooter, and more. 

To learn more about churches in east county inspired to save lives in El Cajon, click HERE.

[1] Fox 5 Digital Team, “SDPD officer injured, suspect killed in Kearny Mesa,” fox5sandiego.com, May 17, 2015. http://bit.ly/1HyW1iZ. (Accessed May 22, 2015).