Decorated Jacksonville-Area SWAT Medic Rescues Fellow Officer During Training Accident
Mark Ocepek is a Navy veteran and a decorated SWAT paramedic with the Fernandina Beach police. Earlier this year, Officer Ocepek was awarded the 2014 Police Officer of the Year award by Police Chief Jim Hurley.
On the afternoon of April 21, Officer Ocepek was one of several officers conducting a 3-day patrol office rifle training class for the Fernandina Beach Police at their gun range. Approximately 20 patrol officers were being trained with the M4 rifle; if the officers passed the training, they would be permitted to carry the firearm.
During a standard drill on the firing range, one officer — who has requested anonymity for the sake of his family — fired his rifle and accidentally hit a piece of steel at a bad angle. The rifle round ricocheted backwards, its trajectory directly back to the firing officer. The officer was struck straight in the face with the bullet ricochet, about an inch or so below the right eye on the cheek. It was immediately visible that the officer’s face — a highly vascular area — was “cut wide open,” and “bled profusely.” An inch higher could have meant instant death or at at the very least blindness.
Fortunately, SWAT Officer Ocepek was nearby. The police always ensure that there are medics nearby in case of an accident, but it was fortunate that an officer of Ocepek’s caliber and training was present on that day. Officer Ocepek instantly rushed to the aid of his fellow officer with his “trauma bag” — always on him — in tow. After checking the airway, Officer Ocepek’s first order of business was stopping the bleeding. Seeing the severity of the laceration, Officer Ocepek employed a new piece of kit he had received back in November of 2014 — a product called BloodSTOP iX that was being sampled at the SWAT International Roundup, a competition for SWAT teams throughout the country.
Officer Ocepek applied BloodSTOP iX, a water-soluble “hemostatic matrix,” wrapped it in gauze and applied direct pressure. In less than a minute, Ocepek saw extraordinary results. Within 20-30 seconds, the profuse bleeding just stopped — completely. Where there was once flowing blood just about an inch from the officers eye, the wound had been completely sealed by a non-toxic, completely safe gel. Officer Ocepek, who had years of experience at level 1 trauma centers and on the job as a SWAT officer, found the results to be better than any skin glue, other hemostatic agent, and far better than any bandage by itself.
Officer Ocepek accompanied the downed officer to the local emergency room at the Baptist Nassau Hospital where doctors were also shocked by what they saw. They had never before seen a hemostatic matrix work so completely effectively. Their shock turned to pleasant surprise for all. The officer’s facial wound was able to be fully and rapidly treated and the officer was able to be discharged to his family the very same day. He is in excellent condition today.
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