COLDWATER, Mich. — Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Officer Eric Zapata died in April 2011 and several groups have fought to keep his memory alive; one is doing so through donations of a life-saving tool.
The latest effort in Zapata’s name is supplying police departments with tourniquet holsters, a tool which organizers said is saving lives.
WMed MiCrisis Intervention System Project Manager Todd Christensen said, “We’re in the live-saving business. And if we can honor Eric’s tragic death in that way then he lives.”
The tourniquet holster looks like nothing more than a piece of plastic, but to law enforcement, it can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Christensen said, “From the time this artery is lacerated, you have approximately three minutes to get this tourniquet on or irreversible death will happen.”
Many police officers and sheriff’s deputies keep a tourniquet in their patrol vehicle.
The Branch County Sheriff’s Office received 70 tourniquet holsters Tuesday, allowing deputies to keep them right on their gun belt.
Branch County Undersheriff Keith Eichler said, “If I come onto an incident whether at a car accident or a shooting or something like that and I get to the scene, I get to the person that’s in need of medical attention and I find out I needed a tourniquet, I’ve got to go clear back to my car to get that. On their person is going to be a whole lot more useful.”
The Tourniquet On Person (TOP) project is a collaborative effort to equip officers throughout southwest Michigan with tourniquet holsters.
The Western Michigan University Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine, Eric Zapata Foundation and Oshtemo Fire Department are working together to make that happen.
TOP has distributed more than 1,000 holsters since 2017 and at least five lives have been saved.
Christensen said, “Having worked with Eric at Kalamazoo Public Safety, I mean, this just means the world. Being able to give back to our southwest Michigan community because of that tragic event to help save the lives of our fellow officers, citizens and subjects that we come in contact with. That’s really what the organization is all about.”