Watch Body Cam Save Cop From Bullet During Baltimore Shootout

Nathaniel Sassafras was paroled last January after serving almost 14 years of a 20-year sentence for a murder he committed in 2004.

October 04, 2018
Officer Phillip Lippe [New York Post/screenshot]

Officer Phillip Lippe [New York Post/screenshot]

Officer Phillip Lippe [New York Post/screenshot]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

BALTIMORE, MD — A body cam may have saved a police officer’s life after the device took the brunt of a bullet fired at him during a shootout in the street.

The Baltimore Police Department released video of the September 23 incident, and the graphic footage shows Officer Phillip Lippe and his partner, Officer Steven Foster, firing their guns at Nathaniel Sassafras, a 29-year-old man they believed was trafficking drugs.

“I’m hit!” Lippe can be heard yelling in the video recorded on Foster’s body cam.

“Phillip, f--k, man, yo, are you good, bro?” responded Foster as he rounded the corner and ran to Lippe, who told him he was okay.

Authorities later noted during a press conference that the officers had been tailing Sassafras in their squad car. When they got out of the vehicle and approached, Sassafras was lying on the ground pointing a gun, which police later discovered had laser sights and a missing serial number. When the officers told Sassafras to drop the weapon, Sassafras opened fire, squeezing off 10 rounds. Lippe and Foster returned 30 shots during the exchange.

Lippe, a three-year police veteran, was hit with multiple bullets — one grazed his elbow, another was deflected off his bulletproof vest, and the last slammed into his body cam, destroying the device but possibly saving his life.

“Lippe’s adrenaline was going,” police spokesman T.J. Smith said. “He didn’t stop. He didn’t give up.”

Foster, who has been with the police department for five years, was uninjured during the shootout that killed Sassafras.

“Those officers were in that particular area doing what I expected and what the public expects, and that’s crime suppression,” said Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle of Lippe and Foster, who are now both “doing well” and currently on administrative leave. “At the end of the day, we are fortunate, not just as a police department, but as a city, that we did not lose an officer during that shooting."

According to the Department of Corrections, Sassafras was paroled last January after serving almost 14 years of a 20-year sentence for a murder he committed in 2004.

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