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Honored IF Officer: Bulletproof Vest Saved My Life

An Idaho Falls police officer shot in the line of duty, and another who was injured, are being honored for their actions last summer.

Officer Malin Reynolds was awarded the Purple Heart in connection with the June 17 incident, and Officer Bart Whiting was given the Chief’s Commendation.

In the early morning hours of June 17, police followed Douglas Walters into his 17th Street home after a short chase. Walters shot Officer Malin Reynolds point-blank in the chest, before killing himself. Reynolds said his bulletproof vest protected him from receiving a gunshot wound.

It’s been more than eight months, and while his bruise may be gone, Reynolds said that day left a lasting impact.

“It can’t not change you,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds risks his life every day as a police offer, but that risk nearly became a reality last summer.

“It’s the only time I’ve been shot,” he said.

On June 17, the officer of 15 years was on his way home when the call came in that Walters, 50, had fled a traffic stop and locked himself inside his home.

Reynolds and three other officers followed to take him into custody.

“He left the room momentarily with his hands up,” said Reynolds. “I chased him into the other room to tackle him.”

But unbeknownst to Reynolds, Walters had grabbed a gun and pulled the trigger, pointing directly at his chest.

“It was at arm’s length,” said Reynolds.

The shot tore through the contents of his chest pocket: a key card, a notepad, and dollar bills. But, as he has for every patrol shift of his career, Reynolds was wearing a bulletproof vest.

“It was hot, hot to the touch from the bullet,” he said. “Two days later is when the real pain kicked in from muscle bruising and stuff like that.”

Still, he said, it was better than the alternative.

“I have a wife and four kids at home who are my life, and I cannot imagine” not having the bulletproof vest on that night, he said.

Reynolds said receiving the Purple Heart was an honor, and he’s grateful for the guys he works with who were behind him that day.

Police said Whiting was recognized for his efforts in apprehending the suspect during the incident. Despite sustaining a knee injury, Whiting made his way to the suspect and handcuffed him to prevent him from continuing to be a threat.

Idaho Falls Police Chief Steve Roos made it mandatory for officers to wear bulletproof vests just a few months before the incident.

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