David Schafer, 29, the overnight shift as a policeman in Bettendorf, Iowa. The story of why he will be around to celebrate Christmas tomorrow begins last June.

Schafer's wife, Terri, decided she was going to buy her husband a practical Christmas gift. So she drove to "Fifth Avenue Uniforms" in nearby Moline, Ill., to pick up a bulletproof vest.

She saw the vest she wanted - a 3-pound number with a blue cloth lining. "But frankly," she said, "with four children, I just didn't have the $127.50 cash to pay out.

"I asked Janie Dennfardt (the salegirl) if she would hold it for me and I could pay $20 a month or so on layaway and pick up the vest right before Christmas. She didn't hesitate for a second. She just said, 'Take it with you now; you never know what might happen between now and Christmas.'"

David Schafer started wearing the vest right away. The new lightweight vest, made of Kelver, was developed with a $1.5 million grant from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration.

On October 1, Schafer was responding to a robbery call at a drug store in Bettendorf.

He saw the suspect's car and walked over to it, "with my gun still in the holster and ordered the man to get out of the car," Schafer remembers.

"He opened the door and was about half way out when he suddenly pointed a .45 at me and fired dead center in my stomach from about three feet away."

Schafer drew his revolver and fired six shots - all missing the suspect - and blacked out . He said he didn't remember shooting at the suspect.

Another officer with Schafer shot and killed the suspect.

"They took me to St. Luke's Hospital in an ambulance and found there was a bruise the size of a baseball on my stomach," Schafer said. "They kept me in intensive care for 24 hours, but there was no internal damage."

On the day of the shooting another policeman went to the door of the Schafer home to break the news of the shooting to Terri Schafer. When she saw the grave look on the officer's face, she feared the worst. She was soon relieved.

"It really makes you think." said David Schafer. "There's no question but that if I wasn't wearing the vest Terri and the kids would be having Christmas dinner without me."

And there were other happy side effects:

The entire Bettendorf 30 man police force got their own Christmas presents from the department - bulletproof vests.

Terri Schafer was reimbursed for her purchase, and a Christmas gift of her own - a new car from her husband.

Janie Dennhardt, the salesperson whose generosity saved the life of a policeman, had her own view.

"It was really the only decent thing to do - let them have the vest right away. We deal with police officers all the time and we trust them. We knew they'd pay for it. There was no sense in making him wait to Christmas it wear a vest that might save his life in October."