One Bullet Can Kill, but Sometimes 20 Don’t

Friday, June 13th, 2014

One bullet can kill, but sometimes 20 don’t:

A man in North Carolina was shot roughly 20 times in 1995 and lived to tell about it. The rapper 50 Cent was shot nine times in 2000 and has since released three albums. And in 2006, Joseph Guzman survived 19 gunshot wounds during the 50-shot fusillade by police detectives that killed Sean Bell.


The trial of three detectives — Gescard F. Isnora, Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper — involved in the shooting that killed Mr. Bell has shown just how arbitrary the flight of bullets can be.

While Mr. Guzman survived at least 13 shots, Mr. Bell was struck only four times, and two of those shots were fatal. A bullet was found lodged near Mr. Guzman’s left kidney, and he had wounds on the left side of his chest and on his right cheek, among other places, according to testimony at the detectives’ trial on Wednesday from Dr. Albert Cooper, the surgeon at Mary Immaculate Hospital who treated Mr. Guzman on the morning of the shooting.

Matter from Mr. Guzman’s intestines spilled into his abdominal cavity, creating the potential for deadly infection, Dr. Cooper said.

Mr. Guzman survived an onslaught that would kill a person 99 percent of the time, Dr. DiMaio said. Mr. Guzman’s saving grace may have been the Nissan Altima he sat in as the detectives fired, Dr. DiMaio said.

“If they go through metal, the bullets may have so little energy they get into the muscle or fat and then they stop,” he said.

A person’s physical size does not matter much when it comes to the damage a bullet can do, the doctors say.

In 1995, the man in North Carolina, Kenny Vaughan, did not have a car to protect him when he was shot about 20 times in Rougemont.


The gun used to shoot Mr. Vaughan was a .22-caliber rifle, a firearm that is much less lethal than, say, the 9-millimeter handguns that detectives in the Bell case used, Dr. DiMaio said.


If a gunshot victim’s heart is still beating upon arrival at a hospital, there is a 95 percent chance of survival, Dr. DiMaio said. (People shot in vital organs usually do not make it that far, he added.)

Shots to roughly 80 percent of targets on the body would not be fatal blows, Dr. Fackler said. Still, he added, it is like roulette.


  1. Robb Seaton says:

    Hm, if you assume that each bullet has a 20 percent chance of being a fatal wound, the odds of surviving 19 of them comes out to ~1.4%.

    It looks like Howard Morgan has the dubious honor of holding the record, surviving 28 shots.

Leave a Reply