Categories: Schenectady County
Just months before Detective Jeremy Pace was shot in a raid this year, he was given a brand new Kevlar vest. It was far heavier than his old one, with ceramic plates to stop armor-piercing rounds. It was bigger, too, covering part of his arms and neck.
But none of those mattered on Feb. 21, when he was shot from behind at point-blank range.
Instead, it was an almost unnoticeable change in the vest that became the most important thing in Pace’s life that day.
His new vest was slightly longer than the old one. The change amounted to a couple inches, but that made all the difference.
“The shot in the back would have been a kidney shot,” Point Blank Body Armor representative Normal McCleod said Friday after he gave plaques to Pace and Officer Thomas Kelly in recognition of the events on Feb. 21. Point Blank commemorates the occasion every time its armor saves an officer.
Pace and Kelly were shot with buckshot when they raided 935 Maple Ave. in search of a murder suspect. They found him — but first they met his younger brother, who shot them from behind a door a moment after they entered the house. The shooter has said in court that it was an accident, but prosecutors said evidence shows he loaded another round into the chamber before police ordered him to drop the gun.
Kelly was hit in the chest. It could have been a devastating injury if he hadn’t been wearing a vest, McCleod said. But his old vest would have protected him just as well as the new one.
However, the old vests could be worn under a shirt. They stopped above the waist, where Pace was shot.
Capt. Michael Wager asked for the new vests shortly before he retired last year. They arrived a few months before the raid.
“It gave us a happy result,” Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said.
The officers said their families were far more shaken than they were.
“It’s different. I’m out there doing it, and she’s at home thinking about what I’m doing,” said Kelly, who had to call his wife from the hospital to tell her that someone had shot him directly in the chest.
Tricia Kelly teared up at Friday’s ceremony as she remembered that call.
Although he reassured her that he got away with only bruises, she was horrified. “It was the worst phone call ever,” she said. “It was shocking.”
Kelly was just happy he wasn’t seriously hurt.
“I’m glad I was the one who made the call, rather than someone else,” he said, adding that he and Pace finished the raid with the rest of the Special Operations crew before going to the hospital.
“Training takes over,” he said. “Sometimes the safest thing to do is to keep doing the job, not shut down, not panic.”
They were both bruised by the shots — but neither felt the pain, they said.
They shouted at the shooter to drop his weapon. A moment later, they said, Adrian Bhee Parbhudial, 24, surrendered.
When the officers got home, Kelly had to show his bruises to his 6-year-old son to prove that he wasn’t badly wounded.
Later, he and his wife had to ask their daughter’s principal to intervene at school because a boy in her class kept reminding her that her father had been shot.
“He wasn’t doing it to be mean,” Kelly said.
Pace added, “He was just fascinated by it. Young children are.”
Pace bounced back quickly.
“I make jokes, beating the odds,” he said.
But his wife, Kerrianne Pace, said it changed how she sees his profession.
“It did change things,” she said. “Life is so precious . . . It just put things into perspective.”
Their children, ages 1 and 3, were too young to be told, and she said she’s learned to stop thinking about whether he’s safe at work.
“You put that thought out of your head,” she said.
Kelly is a 10-year veteran of the force. Pace has 12 years on the force. Neither has ever been shot before — which made the incident even more shocking.
“It was just difficult to think it did happen,” Kerrianne Pace said.