Tuesday, August 06, 2002

New vest saves officer

By Earnest Winston ewinston@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Police Chief Donnie Gould shows the type of vest Officer Brent Caldwell was wearing when he was shot.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        WARSAW, Ky. - Police Chief Donnie Gould is reminded about the dangers of his job every time he walks into his cramped office.

        “Oh Almighty God, whose great power and eternal wisdom embraces the universe, watch over all policemen and law enforcement officers,” reads the beginning of the policeman's prayer that hangs on his wall inside Warsaw City Hall.

        Today, the prayer means more to him than ever. Two days ago, one of his officers - Brent Caldwell of Williamstown - escaped serious injury during a shootout with a suspect, who later died of gunshot wounds.

        Counseling is being arranged for the 36-year-old officer, who is on paid administrative leave and could not be reached for comment.

        Officer Caldwell was struck by a bullet on his right side but received only minor injuries because he was wearing a new bulletproof vest. The officer was nearing the end of his shift when he noticed an abandoned vehicle at Gallatin County Park off U.S. 42 at 12:43 a.m. Sunday.

        Officer Caldwell found the vehicle was empty but saw a man napping on a nearby bench. He approached the man, who was later identified as Jerry Sample, 59, of Hanover, Ind. Officer Caldwell identified himself and a shootout ensued, state police said.

        “We're dealing with (the shooting) the best we can. It's a big shock to all of us,” said Chief Gould, who has spent his entire 14-year law enforcement career with the Warsaw Police Department.

        “Things like this don't happen very often (in Warsaw),” the chief said before pausing briefly. “It has never happened in our city or our county.”

        Meanwhile, residents of this quiet Ohio River town are on edge. A few of the town's 1,800 residents have even approached Chief Gould and asked if the shooting is a sign of things to come.

        “I just pretty much tell them that we're getting bigger and different people are moving here. This is not like the Warsaw of the old days,” he said. “This may never happen again - then again, who knows?”

        More and more traffic is making its way through this bedroom community, where officers used to know the people they stopped for traffic violations. The increased traffic is the result of the nearby Kentucky Speedway in Sparta and Belterra Resort and Casino across the river in Indiana, the chief said.

        Officer Caldwell is a three-year veteran of the Warsaw force. He has also worked for the Taylor Mill, Williamstown and Butler police departments. About two months ago, city officials used a grant and city funds to purchase the bulletproof vest Officer Caldwell was wearing when he was shot.


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