Hero Down: Montgomery County Officer Kyle Olinger Dies From Old Gunshot Wound
Bethesda, MD – Montgomery County Police Officer Kyle Olinger died in the line of duty on April 18, due to complications from a bullet wound he suffered over 15 years ago during a traffic stop.
Officer Olinger had been with the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) for nearly two years when he pulled a vehicle over in Silver Spring just after midnight on Aug. 13, 2003, The Washington Post reported.
One of the three occupants in the vehicle didn’t have identification, so Officer Olinger asked him to get out of the vehicle.
While he was speaking with the occupant near the rear portion of the car, he spotted the man in the passenger seat, later identified as then-19-year-old Terrence Green, searching around for something inside the vehicle.
The officer stepped closer towards Green, and saw him pick up a gun.
Officer Olinger drew his duty weapon and ordered Green to drop his firearm, but he refused, the officer testified in 2004.
“Technically, I could have shot him,” Officer Olinger said.
Green suddenly grabbed onto the officer’s arm from inside the car, pulled him close, and discharged his weapon.
The bullet hit Officer Olinger in the neck, resulting in devastating injury to his spinal column, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
“I remember there was a black hole with a white light — the muzzle flash — and then I remember hitting the curb,” the officer testified, according to The Washington Post. “I heard loud sirens in the background and I remember someone yell, ‘Get in the car!’”
Even though he was critically injured, Officer Olinger managed to provide other officers with a description of the suspects and their vehicle.
"Despite a significant loss of blood, he held his radio and gave a description of the car and the suspects,” MCPD Commander J. Mitch Cunningham said, according to The Frederick News-Post.
Investigators later learned that the three men had been involved in a botched armed robbery attempt just prior to being pulled over by Officer Olinger.
Green was ultimately sentenced to life in prison, plus 20 years, The Washington Post reported.
The .32-caliber bullet lodged in Officer Olinger's spine paralyzed him below the chest and left him confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
The former U.S. Marine had also been an avid weightlifter, runner, and martial arts student prior to the near-fatal encounter.
“Everything I loved to do in life I can no longer do,” he said at the time. “There are things worse than death in life, and that’s paralysis.”
Officer Olinger was awarded the MCPD’s Medal of Honor six months after the altercation, The Frederick News-Post reported.
“I’m honored that they are honoring me, but they are the heroes,” he at the time. “[They] saved my life. The true heroes are my fellow officers.”
Officer Olinger, 53, passed away on April 18 due to “complications of his wound,” according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Prior to his career with the MCPD, he served as a Reading Police Department officer for six years.
He leaves behind his wife and two sons.
“Kyle was, without a doubt, the embodiment of what it truly means to be a hero possessed of an indomitable warrior spirit and a never quit attitude that makes one stand in awe," Montgomery County Acting Police Chief Russell Hamill wrote in a letter to his officers, according to WRC.
Flags across Maryland were lowered to half-staff in the fallen officer’s honor on Monday.
"Lowering the flags is the least we can do to pay tribute to the life and memory of a true hero, Officer Kyle Olinger," Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said on Monday, according to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Patch. "Our prayers are with his family, friends, and loved ones at this time of mourning. May he rest in peace."
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Montgomery County Police Officer Kyle Olinger, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Officer Kyle Olinger, your life mattered.