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Bulletproof vest saves Phoenix officer's life in ambush

By Carol Sowers
The Arizona Republic
July 5, 2000

A Phoenix police officer who was shot in the chest during a predawn ambush today in west Phoenix farm country survived because he was wearing a bulletproof vest, a police spokesman said.

"He is very lucky to have survived," said Det. Tony Morales. "He was in a life-and-death confrontation."

Police have no motive for the attack on Officer Franklin Brown, who was flagged down by a trio of men about 3:30 a.m. near 91st Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road.

"That is the most bizarre thing," Morales said. "We can't figure out what they were doing out there and why they tried to kill a police officer."

The three men have vanished, possibly in a green Mercury Grand Marquis with Mexico license plates. Police are looking for the car but called off the search for suspects around the scene of the shooting at 8 this morning.

Brown, who engaged in what Morales called "a ferocious gunbattle" with his assailants, is in good condition at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the hand.

Police said Brown was on routine patrol of the area surrounded by alfalfa fields when the men signaled for him to stop. When he got out of his patrol car to talk to them, he was attacked, Morales said. Police believe at least two of the men were armed, one with a handgun and another with a military-style rifle.

"But all three could have been armed," Morales said.

During the gunbattle, one of the men held a gun to Brown's chest and fired, but the bullet did not penetrate is body armor. About 99 percent of patrol officers wear bulletproof vests, Morales said.

Morales said Brown was most likely shot with the handgun because the body armor the officer was wearing would not have protected him from a rifle shot.

Brown also told investigators that he could see body armor on one of his attackers and that he believed he hit one with a bullet, but the man didn't go down.