WARREN, Mich. - Warren police Officer Donald Viars was shot Wednesday in his bulletproof vest.
Viars didn't want to show his face Thursday when he did an interview with Local 4 because he does not want to stand out as he works to get his mind and body back on track.
"This is a miracle and I am happy to be here to talk to you," he said. "
A fellow Warren police officer pulled up to the home on Paige Avenue as the shootout erupted. The gunfire was captured on camera.
"This wasn't one of those runs that you thought ... it just turned bad really quick," Viars said.
The gunman shot at the two officers twice with a .38 semi-automatic handgun. Officer Viars crawled to safety. His partner drove him to a nearby hospital.
It was only then when Viars learned his bulletproof vest saved his life. He saw his vest Wednesday night on TV and just how close he was to a critical or even deadly wound.
"It was emotional. Just the world lifted off my shoulders. Body shots to the belly are just not, not really survivable," he said.
"If I just held pressure to it that night, I just knew that it was probably better because if I looked down at it, it would probably send me into shock," he said.
The 35-year-old has been a cop in Detroit and Warren for more than a dozen years. Officers know a successful shift means they go home alive.
"We survived this one," he said.
Viars has a wife and two young children, one 2 and 1/2 years old and the other a 3-month-old.
The gunman who shot at the Warren police officers was 53-year-old Robert Day, of Ecorse. He was killed in the shootout after being struck nine times by return fire.
Warren officer discusses future as cop with family
It's not an easy discussion when the Viars family has such young children at home. His near-death experience is still not resolved in the mind of the veteran officer.
"I wouldn't be tied up in any office or something. This is what I love doing," he said. "Even at the scene when I was putting pressure on it, and the battle was still going on, the thought was going through my head, 'Survive, survive, survive.'"
Viars could be out of the line of duty for a couple of weeks on paid leave. When he does come back to work, he knows plenty of trouble could be ahead.
"Sometimes we run into guys like this, and you can't explain why people do what they do. But that's what we deal with, it's a lot of unknowns. Yesterday, I came home, and that's a known," he said.
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