Joshua McQuien, the Columbus police officer who was shot during the recent siege at a Hilton Avenue home, said after the bullet struck him, “All I could think about was my kids.”
“It all happened in a split second,” said McQuien, a four-year veteran of the police force and father of four. “One minute everything’s good. The next second, everything changes.”
McQuien was honored Thursday morning at a Public Safety Building ceremony hosted by Chief Ricky Boren and his command staff. Also in attendance were a score of fellow officers, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and representatives of the companies that manufacture and sell the body armor that stopped the bullet that struck him that day.
McQuien was one of the officers who responded to the alarm call and encountered an intruder in an upstairs bedroom as they were clearing the house. The suspect fired at the officers five times, police say, with one of the bullets striking McQuien in the shoulder, where the body armor he was wearing stopped the slug.
Boren praised McQuien and the other officers who responded to the Oct. 21 call at a landmark property on Hilton Avenue.
“The officers followed protocol, did what they were supposed to do and carefully entered the residence to try to see if anyone was still there,” Boren said. “And of course, after a short while, entering an upstairs bedroom, there were some shots fired.
“Fortunately, it did not enter the body of the officer; it entered into the vest, which was being worn appropriately and properly and stopped the projectile.”
Will Marshall, Georgia sales representative for Point Blank Enterprises, which manufactures the body armor used by the Columbus Police Department, thanked McQuien for wearing his armor that day and for wearing it properly.
“A lot of officers make a conscious decision not to wear their body armor,” Marshall said.
Marshall said McQuien will soon be invited down to Pompano Beach, Fla., to tour the Point Blank headquarters and to meet the people who manufactured the vest that may have saved his life. After the tour, McQuien, his family and some other officers who survived shootings while wearing Point Blank armor will be treated to a cruise.
“We’re going to drink lots of drinks, eat lots of food and celebrate with other folks who were in situations much like Josh, celebrate the fact that they’re still with us, and that they’re still performing acts on the streets to protect us,” Marshall said.
Ken Rose, a representative from SRT Supply, which sells the body armor to the city, also thanked McQuien for properly wearing his armor that day.
“I tell officers all the time that the armor won’t do them any good in the trunk of their car,” Rose said. “But it’s always an exciting time to know that we had a save.”
After both men had thanked McQuien for wearing his armor, Boren clarified something publicly.
“The command staff of this department mandatorily requires officers to wear these vests,” Boren said. “We do not leave it up to them as to whether or not they want to wear their vests. It’s mandatory within this agency.”
McQuien spoke briefly to the room and thanked the people who provide the vests and the law enforcement community for their support throughout the incident.
“It was an amazing sight to see how well everybody pulled together during the incident, and not just law enforcement, but the community as well,” McQuien said. “I live by faith. I believe in God and I believe definitely that He had His hands on me and was watching over me that day.”
McQuien cited a reading from Deuteronomy, in which God tells His people that they will have to fight for their promised land, but that He will always stand with them.
“I firmly believe that’s a promise that still stands today, from God to us,” McQuien said. “When we put on this vest, this badge, this gun and this equipment, we go out into a fight against evil in this world. I believe if we have faith in God and we believe in Him, he’ll be with us. He won’t leave us; He won’t forsake us. He will protect us.”