For Cincinnati Officer Daniel Kowalski, Sunday December 6, 2009 is the first day of the rest of life. Earlier that day Kaniesha Dangerfield stopped at her home to pick up her mail — she had been staying elsewhere because she was afraid to go home. Leetae Williams was free and she felt the father of her child was going to kill her. As is true in so many domestic violence cases, she was right.
While Kaniesha picked up her mail, Williams suddenly appeared and shot her so many times a witness stated he felt that she had to be dead.
Four hours later police responded to a report that Williams might be at 1714 Casey Drive. SWAT was deployed and after safely evacuating neighbors they could not get any response from inside the residence. No sound was detected from inside the apartment, where it was suspected Williams might be concealed. A dead-bolted door was pried open and a remote control tractor with a camera mounted on it was sent in. Still, nothing could be seen.
An entry team with Officer Dan Kowalski and Spc. Andrew Nogueira at the top of the stack entered the apartment. Shortly after entering, shots were fired through a curtain. Hiding behind the curtain was Williams, who had been arrested 48 times by police and was determined to not allow himself to be arrested a 49th time. Two rounds from Williams’ 9mm handgun smashed into Kowalski’s helmet, knocking him off his feet.
Kowalski was caught by Nogueira.
Lt. Doug Ventre was directly behind them and stated later, “I immediately pulled his head around (Kowalski’s). I knew they didn’t go through. I was thinking we have to get him out of there and still deal with the incident.”
Lt. Ventre made an immediate decision under fire and Officer Kowalski was safely evacuated from the apartment without taking any further casualties.
Attempts were made to communicate with Williams without success. Ten minutes after the ambush failed, a shot was heard. Leetae Williams ended the stand-off and his own life.
Described as being “shaken up,” Officer Dan Kowalski was treated and released at University Hospital.
At a recent press conference Chief Tom Streicher displayed the damaged helmet, which had been purchased for $200 in 2007. Pointing at the two pock marks on the side of the helmet the Chief said, “These would have been fatal shots if it was not for the helmet.”
No one could argue with that logic.
Sex and Violence
Since the beginning of SWAT, critics have complained about the “military posture of SWAT.” This is a result not only because of the trained precision movements but also because of the necessary protective equipment that is worn by SWAT Operators. If you are a Chief, Sheriff, or SWAT commander anywhere in the country, when someone critiques the “military posture of SWAT,” tell them the story of Dan Kowalski found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time with the right equipment.
Officers are surviving deadly encounters, not only because Chiefs and Sheriffs are issuing all their officers body armor, and equipping officers with “military” equipment like helmets, vests, armored vehicles, and advanced training, but also because officers are choosing to wear that protective equipment.
When soft body armor became widely available in the 1970s, Second Chance began to document its saves in a magazine it called “Sex and Violence.” It was a much less politically-correct time. The name came from a slogan designed to encourage not only the purchase of vests, but the wearing of the vests.
“Sex and Violence... You can’t enjoy the one unless you survive the other,” so the slogan went.
The not so subtle message: “Wear your Kevlar.”
Many Years to Come
Officer Dan Kowalski has been given some time off to recover from what will be one of the most memorable moments of his career. His experience will give him a great “war story” to tell for many years to come, as well as an eye-opening visual aid for anyone who doubts his veracity.
Formerly valued at about $200, this object is now priceless.
All of us at PoliceOne are happy to report that, thanks to Kevlar and the quick reactions of his team-mates, Officer Dan Kowalski has many years to come.