Bomb Squad Sgt. Robert Whitley received a Medal of Valor for acting quickly to remove an IED from a patient's neck. (courtesy City of Charlotte Police Dept.)
Charlotte, N.C. -- A police officer in Charlotte, N.C., received a Medal of Valor this week for coming to the rescue of a man who implanted an unexploded bomb in his neck in an attempt to kill himself.
Charlotte Bomb Squad Sgt. Robert Whitley had to join a trauma surgeon in the operating room in September and surgically remove and defuse the bomb while under the instruction of the surgeon, according to authorities.
Whitley, who was not available for an interview with ABC News, was awarded the police department honor today for his role in safely defusing the explosive without injuring anyone else at the hospital.
The incident occurred on Sept. 15, when a patient was rushed to the E.R. with a gunshot wound to the neck and x-rays and CAT scans showed that the bullet was actually an unexploded device, Dr. Toan Huyn, a trauma surgeon at the hospital, said today.
Emergency paramedics who had brought the patient into the E.R. informed doctors there was a spare bullet in the patient's possession that the paramedics brought in with them.
Doctors called police for immediate assistant.
Whitley and other officers responded to the hospital and, after studying the test results with the surgeons, said that the bullet looked to be an unexploded, homemade device, Huyn said.
"It looked to be a rifle bullet, homemade, sealed with marble, one of which was impaled in right side of his neck," Huyn said.
Whitley joined Huyn in the operating room and, under Huyn's instruction, used surgical tools to go in an disable and remove the device.
"I gave him the instrument we typically use in the OR called the Kelly clamp, and he twisted and turned, and it took a little force for him to finally get it out," Huyn said.
Huyn and operating room nurses and the anesthesiologist all stood behind a protective shield while Whitley worked, Huyn said. Whitley wore no protective bomb suit or helmet while he worked, according to police.
"I was there for advice to make sure he was safely removing it," Huyn said.
Doctors and authorities determined that the man shot himself in a suicide attempt. He was not charged with any crimes and was treated and then released. Huyn said he was in "fairly good condition."
"It's not what you see normally (in the OR) but we see a lot of interesting stuff," Huyn said.
The patient's identity has not been made public.