MONMOUTH — When Indiana State Trooper Jarrod Lents was shot six times in the chest at close range in June, “I assumed I was dead.”
His protective vest, however, saved his life.
Wednesday, he visited Tex Tech Industries in Monmouth, which makes the anti-ballistic material used in the vest, to thank employees.
Lents, of the Indiana State Police, was shot six times by a 9 millimeter semi-automatic handgun from just a few feet away, but his vest stopped every one of those bullets from piercing his torso. Another bullet pierced his arm, but was stopped from going farther by the vest.
Lents told the dozens of company employees who gathered Wednesday that the only physical reminder of the shoot-out with the robbery suspect who shot him is the scar that creases his forearm.
“If it wasn’t for the vest I would have dropped,” Lents said. “I owe everything to you guys. I want to thank everyone that was involved in any way, shape or form.”
Lents was working alone around 2 p.m. on June 17 when he was called to a complaint in Montgomery, Ind., about 85 miles northwest of Louisville, Ky. Police would later learn that 60-year-old James D. Jones had pointed a gun at a gun store owner during a robbery. The owner reached for a phone under the desk and dialed 911, but couldn’t talk to dispatchers, who were still trying to figure out what was going on when Lents arrived at the call.
“When I pulled in the driveway I had no information,” he said.
Moments later, Lents saw a sport utility vehicle quickly backing toward his cruiser. Concerned that his car might get hit, Lents approached the window and ordered the driver, Jones, to stop. The driver refused.
“A chill went up my spine,” Lents said.
The trooper was about five feet away when Jones pulled out the handgun. Lents tried to knock the gun away and run for cover toward a nearby shed. Jones opened fire and Lents was struck several times.
“It was like getting hit by a sledgehammer,” Lents said. “It hit so hard I assumed it went through the vest. I assumed I was dead.”
During basic training, Lents and other recruits watched videos of officers who were shot and wounded and then killed when the shooter stood over them and delivered a final shot execution style. Those images flashed through Lents’ mind as he looked at Jones. Lents fired as quickly as he could into the SUV.
“I remember being struck by how quickly my gun went dry,” he said.
He reloaded and continued to fire. The final shot, the 23rd Lents fired, struck Jones in the head.
“The whole thing lasted 10 seconds,” Lents said. “It seemed like an eternity.”
Lents, who still believed some of the bullets must have pierced the vest, spent the next hour not sure if he would live. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital before being flown to Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Ind. An x-ray showed what was believed to be a bullet lodged in his lower torso, but when he was moved it was discovered the vest stopped the bullet and Lents was simply laying on it.
One bullet struck Lents — in his unprotected forearm. That bullet was stopped from doing more damage by the vest, near his armpit. Lents said if it had not been for the vest, the bullet would have gone into his chest and out the other side, perhaps tearing his heart and lungs to shreds in the process.
Lents was released from the hospital that night and returned to work two weeks later.
“It’s been 5 1/2 weeks. I’ve got a scar, and that’s it,” Lents said. “It boggles the mind.”
Company officials said Lents is the 14th person known to be saved by ballistic material made at Tex Tech. Florida-based Safariland, which used Tex Tech’s material to craft the vest that saved Lents, claims more than 1,800 saves, said technical specialist Ed Hinchey.
“It was your vest and his heart that saved the day,” Hinchey said to Tex Tech employees. “What we do every day is critically important.”
Lents, who received two standing ovations during the presentation, took a moment to control his emotions as he recalled a difficult year that included personal struggles for his family. A nearby digital display settled on a photo of Lents’ 3-year-old son as the trooper spoke.
“It’s very rewarding to know the work we’re doing saves lives,” said Tex Tech Sales Director Eoin Lynch. “For a worker to know the work they do every day is bringing people home, bringing fathers home, is pretty special.”
Craig Crosby — 621-5642