By Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 26, 2008
The bullet hit him in the chest, right over his heart, and it felt like being belted "with a sledgehammer."
Alexandria police officer Kyle Russel staggered backward -- "I don't know how I didn't fall" -- took cover behind a guardrail and prepared to return fire.
In his first public comments since a motorist shot him Tuesday night on Interstate 395, Russel said yesterday that he has a big round bruise on his chest, a newfound respect for bulletproof vests and an abiding belief that there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop.
Russel and a rookie were on duty when they spotted a silver Lexus swerving on the interstate. They pulled it over shortly before 8 p.m. at Glebe Road in Arlington County, and when Russel, standing at the car's passenger window, caught a glimpse of the driver, he knew right away something was wrong, he said.
The driver had blood on his face, his eyes were vacant and there was something -- vomit? foam? -- coming out of his mouth. Russel thought maybe the man was having a seizure because "he was frothing at the mouth."
"Are you all right?" Russel asked.
That's when the driver lifted his hand from his lap and fired a .45-caliber handgun at him.
After shooting the officer, Robert K. Hui sped off, police said, then shot himself in the head about two miles farther along I-395, near the Boundary Channel Drive exit. Hui, 22, is also suspected of killing his wife, Sarah Tredop, 19, whose body was found hours later in a closet in their Arlington apartment.
Arlington police continued to investigate the slaying yesterday and announced they were looking for a red Volkswagen Jetta that appeared to be following Hui's Lexus with its hazard lights on. They hope that the driver of that car will come forward as a witness. With three crime scenes to process, police also urged any witnesses who have any information about the incidents to call the Arlington police tip line at 703-228-4242. Police said they would particularly like to speak with anyone who had recent contact with Hui or Tredop.
Russel told reporters yesterday that he thought about firing at the car as it sped away but didn't, which "showed an extraordinary level of restraint," Alexandria Police Chief David P. Baker said. "He performed brilliantly with a level of maturity you don't always see in people his age."
Russel, 26, has been on the force nearly four years, he said. It's a job that first piqued his interest in college, he said, and one he still considers "the greatest job in the world," despite the bandage on his chest.
It's his job as a field training officer to show rookies the ropes. And what happened Tuesday was "about as good a lesson as you're going to get," Russel said.
But the real lesson, he said, was for all police officers: "If you have a vest, wear one."
"I'm just happy I wore my vest that day. I always do," he said. "If I hadn't, I wouldn't be here today."
After he was shot, he said, he wanted "to go pursue the subject" and got on the radio. An ambulance arrived right away, and he was rushed to the hospital.
Meanwhile, outside Albany, N.Y., on Tuesday evening, Donna Russel, the officer's mother, accidentally erased a voice-mail message. She called the number back and got a very serious-sounding person on the other line wanting to confirm that she was in fact Officer Russel's mother.
"First off, I want to tell you he's okay," the man said. "But he's been shot."
She and her husband, Kirk Russel, rushed down to see their son, who was treated at Inova Fairfax Hospital before being released Wednesday evening.
"We feel very relieved and thank the Lord that Kyle's okay," Kirk Russel said.
Kyle Russel felt similarly blessed.
"I can't wait to return to work," he said.