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Troopers give God the glory in near-death traffic stop

ARDMORE, Okla. (BP)–When Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper Kent Martin stopped the car with New Mexico tags for speeding on Interstate 35 near Ardmore on Jan. 20, he wondered why fellow trooper Rocky Northcutt called him to ask if he wanted him to come by.
It was just a routine traffic stop and Martin didn’t think he would need any help, but “I told Rocky, ‘Yeah, come on by.’”
Northcutt said he felt impressed to back up Martin, and called him on a cell phone “because I sensed the driver was in the car with Kent, and I didn’t want the driver to hear our conversation.”
The driver didn’t have a license, so Martin was writing him a couple of tickets when Northcutt’s cruiser pulled up behind Martin’s car.
What occurred in the next few minutes would forever change the lives of the two troopers as well as the driver, Ricky Barnes, 44, and passenger, Travis Ray Beeson, 29, in the suspect vehicle.
Martin and Barnes got out of the patrol car, and as Martin was heading to ask the passenger to step out of the suspect vehicle, Northcutt said he felt impressed to “pat down” Barnes for weapons.
As he began the pat down, Northcutt noticed Martin and Beeson on the ground in an intense struggle.
“I pushed the driver away and drew my weapon,” Northcutt recounted. “The driver showed his hands and I saw no weapon, but I still didn’t know if he was armed.”
Northcutt said he had to go where the threat was, and moved in an arc so as not to turn his back on Barnes, trying to keep his eye on both the passenger and the driver.
“I’m ordering the passenger to get off Kent, and as I check the status of the driver, I see he has a gun drawn and pointed at me,” Northcutt said.
Northcutt turned and began firing, striking Barnes several times and he began to fall.
“As he falls, I stop shooting and go to the next target,” Northcutt said. “But when the driver hit his knees, he got a shot off at me and hit me.”
Northcutt said he dropped to his knees and felt it was quite possible he had a fatal wound.
“In my mind I felt I had to kill the guy with Kent, who is still struggling for possession of the passenger’s gun, or Kent is going to die,” Northcutt continued.
Northcutt said as he raised his weapon, Beeson began to maneuver his body to use Martin as cover.
“But he left his head exposed,” Northcutt said. “I fired, hit him in the head and he died on the scene.”
As Martin was calling for an ambulance, Northcutt told him to tell his wife that he loved her and would see her in heaven, Martin said.
“I told him, I’m not going to tell her anything,” Martin recounted. “You tell her tomorrow.”
As family members, including Northcutt’s wife, Cheryl, and the church family from First Baptist, Ardmore, gathered at the hospital, Northcutt was being treated by Ardmore’s best trauma surgeon who made it to the hospital in less than five minutes.
“He was the only surgeon in the area who could have done that surgery,” said Northcutt. “He’s been out of town a lot lately, but he was available that night.”
The bullet that Northcutt took was a hollow point which usually expands on impact. This one did not. However, the bullet did cause injuries to the intestines and the sacrum, which left Northcutt with some nerve damage.
Northcutt was told the bullet passed within less than a hair’s width of a main artery and less than an inch from his spine.
“If it had hit the artery, I would have bled to death in minutes, and if it had hit the spine, I could have been paralyzed,” Northcutt said.
When he was lying beside the road, Northcutt said, he started getting really tired and sleepy and thought his body was shutting down and he was going to die.
“I began praying out loud for Jesus to help me, that I wasn’t ready to go home yet,” Northcutt, a member of Ardmore’s First Baptist, recalled. “I don’t mean in a spiritual way. I knew I would go to heaven, but I wasn’t ready to leave my family.” The family includes Marissa, 10, and Gunner, 7.
Martin, a member of Mary Niblack Baptist Church, echoed Northcutt, saying, “It’s not death that scares me. I hate to leave what I have here, although I know I probably won’t miss it.”
Martin, who suffered a chipped bone in his thumb and dislocated finger in the struggle with Beeson, and Northcutt say they look at life differently after a close call with death.
“Every day is precious to me,” Northcutt reflected. “You know this, but it is much more apparent when something like this happens. I’m glad my children don’t have to grow up without a father, that my wife doesn’t have to raise them alone.”
Highway Patrol Chief Gary Adams, a deacon at Twelve Corners Baptist Church, Noble, said violent crime is down in the United States, but violence against troopers is up 40 percent. He said he recently returned from an International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting where 19 law enforcement officers, who were killed in the line of duty, were memorialized.
Adams, who was at the hospital to pray with Northcutt and his family, said as Christians “we recognize the preciousness of life, but to a lot of people life is not important.”
“We’ve taken the life of one of God’s creatures, and Satan will take things like this and work you over,” he said. “But as Christians, we have to turn it over to God who gives peace.”
Northcutt and Martin said the incident “has God written all over it.”
“From my sense that Kent needed help, to the fact the bullet that hit me didn’t expand, that it just missed an artery and my spine, to the fact the surgeon was available all tell me God was in control,” Northcutt said.
“God didn’t send just anybody to help me.” Martin said. “He sent our expert marksman, who the weekend before the shooting went out on the range and practiced shooting 200 rounds with hostages.”
Barnes and Beeson were wanted for numerous crimes in New Mexico, including armed robbery and aggravated assault and were suspects in a variety of crimes in Oklahoma. Barnes, who survived gun shots to his abdomen, chest and head, is awaiting trial.
“There’s no telling what these guys would have done had they not been stopped,” Northcutt said. “I believe we saved somebody’s life somewhere down the road. They were going to kill somebody.”
Northcutt said he wished none of this had happened, “but I know God can take a bad situation, turn it into good and use it for his glory. That’s my intention.”
Adams said he spoke to a trooper academy with 80 recruits shortly after the incident with Martin and Northcutt.
“I was asked why anyone would want to be a trooper,” he noted. “I told them I’d much rather be equipped than face this crime-ridden world unequipped.”
Adams said he has known every one of the 24 troopers killed in the line of duty during the last 30 years.
“Here we have two Christians who are serving others and willing to take bullets for them,” Adams emphasized. “There are 612 others doing the same thing. They are paying a high price to make it a safer world. I believe this is an opportunity to glorify our Lord.”

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  • Dana Williamson