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Final Moments of VA Police Recruit's Life Unfold

Final Moments of VA Police Recruit's Life Unfold

Virginia Pilot via YellowBrix

February 04, 2011

NORFOLK – The week of Dec. 6 was set aside to teach recruits self-defense at the Norfolk police training academy. If they wanted to become officers, they would need to know how to handcuff a suspect, block punches and kicks, and protect themselves – and their gun – in a fight to the death.

In Norfolk, that means learning to take a hit.

Bruises, headaches and sore muscles in such training are not unusual. Neither are trips for some recruits to an urgent care clinic.

Leldon Sapp, a defensive tactics instructor, and others asked the recruits at least three times each day whether they were injured. Over four days, no one spoke up.

But a recruit ended up unconscious and eventually died.

Police records released under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act don’t reveal the cause of John Kohn’s death, and the medical examiner’s investigation is continuing. However, the records, including internal memos and training video, show a detailed series of events that could have caused head trauma.

On Tuesday, Dec. 7, Kohn, a lanky sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve, was doing blocking drills with Officer Stephen Bailey. Instructors throw punches; recruits wearing protective headgear block them. Bailey landed a right to Kohn’s head – a punch Bailey later described as soft.

The blow was hard enough, however, to rattle Kohn, who either fell or stumbled into a wall before he shot back up. Recruits watching gave out a collective “Ooh!”

“Are you OK?” Bailey asked Kohn after urging him to take off his headgear so he could peer into his eyes.

“Sir, I’m OK.”

Another instructor observing the drill for safety also asked Kohn if he was OK.

It wasn’t the only head blow Kohn suffered that day. During knee-strike practices with another recruit, he held a pad that hit him in the face, according to police.

Kohn, 40, complained to a fellow recruit.

“I feel nauseous,” he told Montrell Martin, 24. “I have a headache. Can you check my pupils?”

Kohn walked with recruit Alonzo Burroughs, 35, as Burroughs returned a medical bag. Burroughs asked Kohn what had happened.

“Don’t worry about it,” Kohn said.

When Burroughs pressed for a response, Kohn told him he had a headache but wasn’t sure if he wanted to tell instructors.

“I don’t want to talk to them,” he said. “I’ll wait until tomorrow, and if it doesn’t get better by tomorrow, I’ll talk to them.”

That night, he told his wife, Patricia, that he’d gotten his bell rung and saw stars. She didn’t like hearing such details.

She later told police she believed the incident happened during her husband’s training with another recruit in which they used the pads.

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  • Telecommunicator_rusch_max50


    over 3 years ago


    So terrible, my sympathy to recuit Kohn's family and friends...

  • Bearcat_smoke-rgb_max50


    over 3 years ago


    RIP John. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family friends.

  • Draped_badge_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Such a same,,RIP John...This has been a collossal mess down here...The chief is going to end up losing his job, because of his arrogance during the whole process, and well he should..Such an ass. The way training goes nowaday, you have to be beat to pass the academy..Something is wrong here.

  • Me_jan_2011_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Rest in peace John. My thoughts and prayers will be for the family of John Kohn. It appears to me that, not only the training tactics should be reviewed, but those instructors providing the training. Defensive tactics instructors should be trained to recogbize when to stop the training in favor of the health and safety of the recruits. It should not be solely the responsibility of the recruit to spesk up. The instructor(s) also have a responsiblity. In fact, they have an even greater responsibility. As instructors they should have sufficient training to recognize a possible impairment. Safety must be the primary concern for all training instructors, whether it be weapons or defensive tactics training. This is sad, especially considerig this tragedy could and should have been avoided.

  • Flags_and_stars_max50


    over 3 years ago



  • Radio2_max50


    over 3 years ago


    ump GlockArmourer220.. I had to go through defensive training when I worked in security and in Corrctions. If we got hurt we took a step back and got checked out.

    Just remember that if you are not feeling well get out and tell someone.. Remember safety..

  • 1393794_10151798561878138_392793313_n_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I agree with USlawman1983, may some careers will be in jeopardy.

  • 2011_range_day_2-19-10_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Tragic all around, recruit Kohn lost his life and several careers may be in jeopardy.

  • 0524001248_0001_0001_max50


    over 3 years ago


    This is uncalled for. I was a 11B in the military and this kind of garbage never went on in basic. Yes, this job is dangerous. All of us face the fact we may get hurt or even killed. But we don't need to die before we get out there on the streets. RIP brother, and may God give peace to the family effected by this tragedy.

  • Cert_max600_max50


    over 3 years ago


    This was a hard read! As I made my way through the article, I could actually visualize this recruit deteriorating. One bad move seemed to lead to another.

    My thoughts and prayers are with this recruits family.

    Perhaps there are some parts of this training that need to be re-evaluated, but as a remionder to everyone; when your going through any training within your department, and something just doesn't feel right, speak up! There is no need to feel embarrassed or any reason to act like a tough guy.

    Keep yourself safe and keep your co-workers safe!

    Stay safe and God bless!!!

  • 100_1019_max50


    over 3 years ago



  • Plmb2s3sk_max600_max50


    over 3 years ago



  • Jorden_and_i_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I just want to say RIP Recruit Kohn. I am currently a Norfolk PD Recruit and have spent these last 3 weeks sharing a locker room with the class that Recruit Kohn was in. They all have nothing but great things to say about him AND the instructors who teach us on a day to day basis. Please keep his family, and his friends from NPD Recruit Class 87 in your prayers!

  • Pug_max600_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I pray this is a LODD for the sake of his family. Hopefully some good will come out of this tragedy. Sad day for all.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    That was scary to read. Head injuries are absolutely frightening.

    R.I.P, recruit.

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