If it wasn't for his belt, Tom Miller could be dead.
Miller is a Quincy Police officer who was shot in the line of duty. But his tactical belt saved his life.
Miller doesn't remember a lot about the shooting, but he is opening up for the first time about what happened to him on June 29, 2011.
That's when a Mt. Pleasant, Iowa man shot at him and the bullet came within an inch of possibly ending his life.
It all started with a simple radio transmission about a stolen car from Quincy. And within a matter of just a few minutes it was traffic stop Tom Miller will never forget.
"So I got permission from the field supervisor to try and intercept," Miller said.
The following is a transcript of the radio communications between Miller and the Adams County 911 telecommunicators
Unidentified police officer - "Dispatch, 1-5-8 has that vehicle."
911 dispatcher - "1-5-8 ten/four"
QPD officerMiller - "Dispatch - 1-5-8, vehicle is pulling over to the side of the road."
Miller has been a Quincy Police Officer for more than a decade and on June 29th of 2011 he was working the security detail at the Quincy Regional Airport. An SUV had been stolen and Miller was about to pull it over on the highway near the airport. The next thing he remembers is, "I was in the process of what we consider a felony traffic stop and at about the same time I started talking he stepped out of the SUV and I remember seeing a pistol."
911 operator - "All units, information, caller that is following the vehicle is saying that shots are fired, shots are fired ... 1-5-8- checking status."
QPD Miller - "1-5-8 back in the car following"
911 operator - "Were shots fired"
QPD Miller - "Ten/four, I'm still following, east bound at Martin and Kroencke"
What came next Miller can't remember, but the investigation showed he had been shot and the bullet hit his tactical belt that carries his Taser, his gun and his pepper spray.
"I remember squeezing the trigger, I don't remember a whole lot after that."
Dr. Jack Schafer is a retired FBI agent who now teaches at Western Illinois University. He said the brain has a way of shutting things out that it considers to be traumatic. And being shot at by a wanted felon is just one of those cases.
"Yes, because when you're in fight - flight response, your brain tends to shut down the reasoning part of your brain. In other words, you're not thinking logically anymore and you're on auto pilot. So nothing gets processed. Not that they don't remember, instead it wasn't processed in the first place to be remembered," Dr. Schafer said.
Miller also said he still can't remember all the events that transpired that day. But he knows that if the bullet would have hit an inch or two above or an inch or two below his belt, it would have stuck an artery and that he might not have made it to the hospital.
"I said then and I still say it today, I thank God I'm still here," Miller said.
Miller was wearing a bullet proof vest that day like he always does while on duty, b
ut the design of the vests are intended to protect the heart and vital organs in the chest area.
They don't extend to the belt line on the officers who wear them.
As for the the suspect involved in the case, Benjamin Biggs.
He also shot an Adams County Sheriff' Deputy later that day at a farm house near Kingston, Illinois.
Biggs, eventually died inside that farmhouse from a self inflicted gun shot wound.