On April 23, 2015, officers and deputies responded to a disturbance call involving a 6’5” 290 lb. man in Rufe, Oklahoma shooting with a rifle into his neighbor’s home.
Upon arrival, one of the suspect’s vehicles was missing and officers weren’t sure if he’d fled the scene. To determine if the threat was still active, the teams attempted to make contact with the suspect but there was no response. They decided to make entry and Deputy Jeff Epley, Lt. Steve Babcock of the Hugo Police Department and a third officer breached the door.
As the deputy crossed into the doorway, he was shot three times – twice in the chest and once in the foot – by the suspect who was armed with a 12-gauge shotgun. The suspect also shot Lt. Babcock multiple times. The entry team pulled back and a gunfight ensued.
While Deputy Epley moved to take cover behind a tree, the suspect shot him a fourth time hitting him in his right arm and elbow. Officers continued to exchange fire with the gunman. As the deputy was moving for better cover, the suspect shot him in the sternum with the SKS rifle.
Suddenly, the suspect came to the door waiving around a sweatshirt in what appeared as an attempt at surrendering. As officers approached to take him into custody, he grabbed an officer’s patrol rifle and a fight over the weapon began. As officers tried to subdue the suspect, he gained control of the rifle. Even though he was severely wounded, Deputy Epley drew his duty handgun and fatally shot the suspect.
The deputy was wearing not one, but two Second Chance® vests – a Level II concealable Summit® and an older tactical Model 229 Level IIIA which he received when the vests were retired by the Oklahoma City Police Department. The two vests stopped the 12-gauge 00 buckshot hits and the SKS round to the chest.
Deputy Epley has reached out to the original wearer of the Model 229 vest, Sgt. Geery of the Oklahoma City PD, to personally thank him for the donation of the used tactical armor which contributed to saving his life. Now, after several months of physical rehabilitation for the seven hits off the armor, Deputy Epley has returned to full duty.
We welcome Deputy Jeff Epley, SAVE #1926, to The Safariland Group SAVES CLUB®.