NEW ORLEANS — A charity that provides medical kits to help prevent injured police officers from bleeding to death began with a high-school English project that was sparked by a northwest Louisiana policeman’s fatal shooting.
Mississippi State University sophomore Kellie Abbott’s nonprofit organization, Blue Forever, has given law enforcement agencies in north Louisiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania hundreds of kits designed to stop hemorrhaging when officers or others are injured.
It’s important for police to have such kits because they’re often the first people to arrive at scenes where minutes make the difference between life and death, said Jerome Hauer, commissioner of New York State’s Department of Homeland Security. His department is buying one for every officer in every law enforcement department in the state.
Nationwide, bullets kill dozens of officers a year. Last year’s 31 was a 126-year low; this year’s total was 35 by Sept. 10, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Abbott remembers being awakened early Oct. 24, 2010, by her mother’s sobbing. Friends in the Shreveport Police Department had called to tell her a gunman had killed Sgt. Tim Prunty, a family friend and one of 60 officers shot and killed nationwide that year.
Prunty was shot five times from behind as he hustled a clerk into the convenience store where a gunman showed up and began shooting while the officer was making a nightly security check. One bullet cut an artery just behind his knee.
A tourniquet, one of the other items in the kit, might have saved him, said Lt. Dan Stout of the Gainesville Police Department, who created similar kits used throughout Florida’s Alachua County and trains officers to use them.
He said he has a photograph of Prunty in his PowerPoint presentation. “He’s one of the examples of why I continue to do this, so instances like that don’t have to happen,” Stout said.
The summer before her senior year at Haughton High School, Abbott saw a news report about gauze impregnated with kaolin, a fine-grained clay that absorbs liquid and stimulates clotting, to treat combat wounds.
“I thought, ‘Hmm, that would be a really great thing for police officers. It might prevent something like Tim’s death,’” said Abbott, whose father is a Caddo Parish sheriff’s deputy.
She checked out the manufacturer and learned it sold lightweight kits law enforcement officers could thread onto their belts.
They cost about $67 each. As her senior project, Abbott designed and sold T-shirts to raise money for the kits, which also include gloves, a pressure tourniquet and CPR shield.
“From about September to November, I think I got $6,200. I think $4,000 of it went to pay for the kits,” and the rest for the shirts, she said. With donations from QuikClot manufacturer Z-Medica, she gave the 300-officer department 100 kits.
Abbott, now majoring in bioechemistry with a concentration in forensic science, was surprised at the results. “I was thinking I would maybe get 100 shirts sold. I ended up selling 447.”
She has bought 465 kits for a dozen agencies across north Louisiana; Harvey Cedars and Beach Haven, New Jersey; and Scranton, Pennsylvania.
After writing an article about Abbott for Wives Behind the Badge’s national magazine, Noelle Butler, director of the New Jersey state auxiliary, suggested her group sell Blue Forever shirts to get kits for local departments that cannot afford them. Butler said the New Jersey Turnpike Authority bought kits in 2013 for state troopers, who within weeks of receiving them had saved the lives of a construction worker who fell on a handsaw and a woman whose leg was severely injured in a car wreck.