CONROE, Texas - A Conroe police officer who was shot at from point-blank range by a wanted felon is sharing his story for the first time.
On Thursday afternoon, the Conroe Police Department released the body camera video showing that heart-stopping moment.
“It still rattles me,” said Officer Greg Vradenburg. “It makes my heart race.”
The near-death experience was captured on Officer Vradenburg’s body-worn camera during the early morning hours of January 3, 2016.
The five-year CPD veteran had just caught up with Christopher Hatton, 28, who had taken off running from a traffic stop.
Officer Vradenburg said he had Hatton on the ground on the sidewalk of Little John Lane after Hatton tripped.
He said Hatton ignored several orders to show his hands.
“Something told me, ‘Just turn your body camera on’, and a couple of seconds later is when the shot came out,” said Officer Vradenburg. “Everything slowed down. I saw the gun, saw his hand, saw the muzzle flash, but I never heard anything.”
Amazingly, not only was the officer not hit, but he immediately chased after Hatton and helped other officers take him into custody.
“The grace of God, I don’t know,” said the officer, responding to a question on how the bullet missed him. “When (Hatton) turned and looked at me, and just the look of disbelief on his face, he was just as surprised he missed as I was.”
Officer Vradenburg said on his next duty shift, he was back on the street, wearing the same uniform and the same scripture-inscribed necklace he was wearing at the time he apprehended Hatton.
The necklace was given to him by a chaplain. He says he’ll wear every night, in case that’s what saved him.
“Must have, caused he missed,” said the officer. “I don’t know how he missed.”
Brett Ligon, the Montgomery County District Attorney, believes body camera footage like this is helpful not only to keep everyone honest, but also to show the public all of the unknowns officers face, as well as their vulnerability when taking someone into custody.
The Officer Down Memorial Page lists 63 law enforcement officers across the U.S. killed by gunfire in the line of duty in 2016.
Philip Dupuis, the Chief of Police for the Conroe Police Department, said about 90 percent of his officers currently have body cameras.
He’s planning on eventually making them available to every officer.
Hatton was sentenced in early May to 99 years in prison for the 2016 crime. He won’t be eligible for parole for at least 30 years.