Saved by the badge

A freak circumstance preserved the life of a sheriff’s deputy

Although critically wounded, Deputy Tom Lambert recovered from his wounds and returned to work as a sheriff’s deputy. However, to say that he was lucky to have survived is an understatement.

Louis Smith fired two .22-caliber bullets at Lambert’s torso that night. The first struck him in the abdomen. The other, aimed at his chest, would certainly have been a fatal wound to the heart, had Lambert’s six-point deputy’s badge not deflected the slug, which then lodged in his left shoulder.

Retired sheriff’s Capt. Doug Gist said the shot knocked the metal seal of the State of Nevada from the center of the star. It also left a prominent dent in the words “Washoe Co.” on a medal ribbon atop the badge.

A photograph of the badge appeared in True Detective magazine, but the star’s whereabouts remain a mystery to this day.

Some time after Tom Lambert’s death, his widow told Gist that she had given the life-saving badge to a family member, someone with whom she later lost contact. Gist hopes that, someday, the badge will surface, so that it can be put on public display.