San Bernardino County, 1997: It should have been a routine DUI stop on a typical warm September night in this dusty rural corner of the Valley. A white male in his 50s, swerving in and out of his lane, caught the attention of a Phelan, Calif. deputy on duty, who pursued. Jim Considine, a county deputy sheriff, heard the call and ordered his trainee to assist. After a 20 or 30-minute chase, the beat up old pick-up truck came to a halt at the end of a dirt road near a rickety trailer home sparsely surrounded by a few trees.
It was dark, and Considine, in his mid-30s with more than six years on the force, cautiously approached the vehicle with sidearm in his right hand, leaning on his left, which clutched a police-issued MAGLITE Charger near the lens. Before he had any time to react, the driver pulled out an AK-47 and started shooting. One bullet ripped through Considine’s right hip, another headed toward his heart.
The sturdy MAGLITE intercepted and absorbed the 7.62 x 39 mm round like a catcher would a Clayton Kershaw fastball. As it was traveling 2,350 ft/sec, the bullet knocked the flashlight out Considine’s hand as he was still falling back from the first hit.
“It took one of the rounds that would have gone through my vest,” recalls Considine, now a lieutenant.
Three more bullets found his leg in the shootout, but the reason Considine is still here is because the MAGLITE saved his life not once, but twice.
“[The MAGLITE] landed on ground, still functional, and pointed right at the suspect,” says Considine. The shooter targeted the MAGLITE, giving the wounded officer 3 to 5 seconds to crawl away to find cover.
“It couldn’t have landed any better,” he says, adding the moment made him feel like Steve Martin in The Jerk, with the MAGLITE standing in for the paint cans.
He can have a sense of humor about it 20 years later, but the situation at the time was quite dire. “He definitely would have kept me pinned down,” Considine says. “He would have killed me, because I was right in front of him.”
After four or five minutes, in eternity in bullet time, Considine and the other officers ended the threat permanently. The now-dead shooter had several guns and hundreds of rounds in his front seat.
|Lt. Jim Considine re-enacts how he approached the suspect who would fire four shots in his leg and one in his flashlight, a shot he thinks would have killed him.|
Considine is convinced he would be dead if not for MAGLITE’s construction, which he still can’t believe.
“The dependability to take a round and still stay on?” he says. “I don’t know what’s in there, but it must be something pretty solid.”
As with all MAGLITE flashlights big and small, it’s anodized aluminum. How the flashlight landed, you could call it divine intervention or inconceivable luck, but the ability to absorb that initial impact is all thanks to the flashlight made less than an hour away in Ontario, Calif.
|A solid-core MAGLITE Charger similar to what Lt. Considine had.
What makes Considine’s story most remarkable is what he did with his life after that night. One of the rounds went through the bottom of his foot, tearing up his lower leg and causing severe damage.
Forced retirement didn’t suit a public servant who survived what he did. So he had his right leg amputated below the knee a few years later and started rehabbing with a new prosthetic leg. By 2006, he had the strength to rejoin his department.
“I wasn’t gonna’ curl up and let some [domestic terrorist] ruin my life. That wasn’t gonna’ happen,” he affirms. “Nobody’s going to take my happiness away from me.”
Not one for sympathy, he would arrive to the locker room an hour early every morning to change so his fellow officers would not see his leg. They knew, of course, but Considine says he wanted their view of him to be as a “normal” officer.
He is anything but. In 2009 Considine was promoted to detective; SWAT was a collateral duty. Passing the paramilitary training boot camp was among “the proudest moments of my career,” he says. He was the first amputee to do so, and earned the “Instructor’s Award” for his commitment.
“I put out more effort because I had to,” he says matter-of-factly.
He now teaches officer survival and safety and is commander of criminal intelligence. In his off-time, the officer spends time meeting with other amputees, such as veterans to instill the same amount of confidence he has.
Last month, MAGLITE, which had recovered the wounded flashlight, showed it to Considine. Seeing the bullet still lodged in the body gave him “a chill to the bones.”
Last night, Lt. Considine was honored by MAGLITE at a minor-league hockey game between the Ontario Reign and Cleveland Monsters.
“When we discovered what Jim had achieved, especially with our close connection to law enforcement we at MAGLITE were compelled to see his story told,” said Tony Maglica, President and Founder of MAGLITE.
Fittingly, Maglica’s favorite proverb sums up Considine perfectly:
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle awakens. He has only one thought on his mind: To be able to run faster than the fastest lion. If he cannot, then he will be eaten.
Every morning in Africa a lion awakens. He has only one thought on his mind: To be able to run faster than the slowest gazelle. If he cannot, he will die of hunger.
Whether you choose to be a gazelle or a lion is of no consequence. It is enough to know that with the rising of the sun, you must run. And you must run faster than you did yesterday or you will die.
Considine doesn’t have a fancy, inspirational taglines to sum up his experience, but like his life-saving MAGLITE, he doesn’t know when to quit.
“I don’t dwell on the shooting, but I know I survived by not giving up,” he concludes.