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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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  • In_remembrance_of_oakland_pd_max50_max50_max50_max50_max50


    over 3 years ago


    This should not have happened, poorly conducted training evolution, lack of trainee checks, indifferent response from instructor once recruit was unconscience, slow response to get EMS involved. The staff were less than candid about the circumstances involved when they advised the chain of command. The macho training instructor crap has no place in the academy.

  • 19227-clipart-illustration-of-a-black-and-white-coloring-page-of-a-magical-flying-phoenix-bird_max50


    over 3 years ago


    That's sad, one after the other. He should have gone to the hospital. How often does this happen?


  • Steve_mcqueen_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Todays Training that involves "SERIOUS CONTACT" should be eliminated. This young mans death is yet another in a "LONG LIST OF ACADEMY DEATHS" as the result of serious contact. This training should not rise to the level of Military Boot Camp , in the Service you are broken down initially to a point of becoming a mental midget who does nothing but follow orders without question. Then you are built back up psychologically with a win at all cost fighting spirit and Adrenalin push to kill your enemy. It is a matter of progression psychologically and physical to train a fighting man or woman. A Police Officers "SURVIVAL TRAINING DRILL" should not have any hard contact "UNLESS THE TRAINEE IS ALLOWED TO ACTUALLY FIGHT TO THE BEST OF HIS OR HER ABILITY TO KILL THE AGGRESSOR" . Half way measured get people killed because of not knowing the point they can go to on the part of the trainee.
    If the Academies want to teach defensive tactics to a trainee they should do it in a separate event after the Police Academy Training Class has ended. A set time of training should be determined by a certified Martial Arts Instructor and should not affect the Graduated Trainee . Meaning the Police Academy teaching Police Training (EXCLUDING HARD CONTACT) , then after graduating the Academy on an Academic level , move on to a self defense course that does not prohibit the graduation but is mandatory.

  • Images_max50


    over 3 years ago


    RIP Recruit! Your service did not go without recognition. He should be properly sworn in and given a full police burial and memorial. Training needs to be exactly that.. training. There are so many instructors out there that just want to "show off" to the rookies and this is what happens. Recruits taking trips to urgent care on a regular basis is a problem and that program seriously needs to be investigated...

  • 08


    over 3 years ago


    My prayers go out to all involved. May God comfort all of them. Speaking from the perspective of a recruit in training: If your fellow recruit comes to you and complains of an injury (especially head injuries), encourage them to let the instructor know. If they refuse, politely tell them that you will notify the instructor if they do not notify them on their own. Then follow through if necessary. He or she may be angry with you, but we have to look out for each other in every way. That being said, hindsight is always 20/20.

  • 179509_413913675314782_526027874_n_max50


    over 3 years ago


    may he R.I.P. my prayers are with this young man and his family and friends, as well as the instructors and recruits of the academy.

  • The_wall_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Pushig people to their limits, is necessary in training, but it must be stressed that any injuries must be reported and evaluated by the Tranng Officer or Medical.. Yes, that drive to prove that you can play injured, only increases the chance of further injury. Rest in Peace, John Kohn and the rest of us trainers or those being Trained, take this incident as a valuable lesson in life.

  • Hard_rock_3-20-11_max50


    over 3 years ago


    R.I.P. brother. I pray for solace and comfort to all of your family, friends, fellow recruits, and the instructors.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    C'mon, guys--if you are injured, admit it and get medical attention.! You are only human. God Bless the soul of this young recruit and may God comfort his grieving family.

  • Station_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Training is valuable to a point.

  • Vpsomourningband_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Rest in peace Recruit Kohn. Peace to your family.

  • Absolutelawenf_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Rest in Peace

  • John_groh_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Sad story. I really feel bad for his family. This one hits a little close to home. Several years ago, a close friend of mine, also retired from our agency lost his son while he was in the Police Academe. The young man finished a 4 K memorial run for a fallen Officer. When he crossed the finish line, he died of a heart attach.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago

    My prayers go out to Recruit Kohn, his partners and instructors. It's really sad, but I understand...when your in that moment you push yourself so hard. I know it is of little help, but his loved ones should be proud of his efforts. Hopefully we all can learn from this a tough guy/gal...or live.

  • Screen_shot_2011-04-10_at_8


    over 3 years ago


    Rest in peace brother. I agree that it is a shame. Training accidents happen more often that departments like to admit. And being female, I understand not being a wuss or a cry baby about an injury, but at some point you have to swallow your pride and say if you are injured. This could have been prevented on many levels, but in the end if Kohn would have sought medical attention when the head injury was first causing him issues, he may still be here. Unfortunately only God can know the what ifs, and I am not here to say anyone should have done things differently. I pray that all the officers involved in this incident stay strong through the investigation and guilt of what happened. Know that you are supported by your fellow LE officers. I pray that they department will do what they have to to get to the bottom of what happened without destroying the career of any officers.

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