Earlier this month, former Oktibbeha County Deputy David Lewis received a plaque that reminded him of a day that could have been his last.
He became known as Safariland Saves Clubs â€śSave #1,813,â€ť joining a group of law enforcement personnel who experienced a life-threatening incident where their armor contributed to saving their life. He was wearing the company-furnished vest at the time of his encounter with a man on Cannon Road not six months before â€” an encounter which he said likely would have resulted in his death had he not been wearing the armor.
On Aug. 20, 2012, Lewis and colleague Lt. Shannon Williams responded to a disturbance call on Cannon Road and were confronted by Damion Lavent Street, who was wielding a knife. They approached Street, ordering him to drop his weapon. Street then charged Lewis and stabbed him multiple times. Williams attempted to subdue Street with pepper spray and tasers, but he continued to attack. Williams then opened fire on Street, who died on the scene.
â€śI got stabbed in the back at least three times and then once in the chest, and all of those the vest stopped,â€ť Lewis said. â€ś(Street) would have definitely killed me. The vest, no doubt, I feel saved my life but also gave Shannon enough time to stop the threat.â€ť
According to a press release on the companyâ€™s website, Safari Saves is approaching the 2,000-member mark.
â€śEach of our Saves become advocates for the law enforcement community, expressing the importance of wearing body armor, as well as other safety tips,â€ť the release stated. â€śFrom the manufacturing floor to the companyâ€™s president, we embrace our Saves and honor the dedication and commitment they exhibit every day.â€ť
Lewis, now an investigator for the Mississippi Attorney Generalâ€™s office, said wearing the protective gear was something he did on a regular basis during his time as a deputy.
â€śIf you donâ€™t wear the vest, you get complacent. You have people who say they get tired of being hot every time they wear one, but I would rather be hot and have the protective equipment available to me on my body,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s not going to do any good sitting on the front seat or the back seat.â€ť
Williams said every law enforcement officer should have high-quality bulletproof armor.
â€śIâ€™m glad Iâ€™ve still got my friend and former co-worker,â€ť he said.
Shortly after the incident, the sheriffâ€™s department used grant funding and forfeited funds to pay for 22 new bulletproof vests for deputies. The vests, made by body armor manufacturing company Second Chance, arrived at the department in December and have been in use ever since, according to Oktibbeha County Chief Deputy Chadd Garnett.
Lewis said while he enjoyed his new role, which he started last October, there are some things he missed about working at OCSD.
â€śI miss the guys at the sheriffâ€™s department, (but) I would say the thing I like best about working at the attorney generalâ€™s office is the people and Iâ€™m in a little more stable position,â€ť he said. â€śI know more what Iâ€™m going to be doing Monday through Friday than I did at the sheriffâ€™s department.â€ť
Lewis said he remains thankful not only that he had the armor but to Williams.
â€śShannon has been a lieutenant at the sheriffâ€™s department for a long time. He was very professional, and when everything started happening so fast I knew 100 percent in my mind that Shannon was going to do what he needed to do,â€ť he said â€śOnce (Street) was off of me, I knew he wasnâ€™t going to get back on. Shannon did a great job and thereâ€™s no question as long as heâ€™s there at that sheriffâ€™s department heâ€™s going to continue to do a great job.â€ť