Some of the world's most celebrated discoveries occur through sheer providential chance. Fleming had his petri dish. Vincente Arriaga had a box of Tuna Helper. Arriaga, a grocery clerk on the west side, was stocking shelves last week when a robber shot him in the chest. The bullet hit the Tuna Helper he was holding and Arriaga suffered only a small flesh wound, proving what consumers had previously only suspected.
Detective William Facchini credits the bullet itself--a .22 short, "just about the weakest bullet you can get"--and its path through the box. "It struck the corner of the box of Tuna Helper, which is, you know, where the folds of the box are, the strongest part of the box," he explains. "It went through the foil and the noodles and went through the other corner, and it deformed the bullet enough and took the velocity off enough that when it struck [Arriaga] in the sternum it just lodged in the sternum, and what could've been a mortal wound, he was just treated and released."
"This is one lucky guy," Facchini adds. "It's the first time I've heard of a grocery product saving somebody's life." Arriaga had stumbled on a lifesaver, albeit one that may never surpass penicillin.
With grocery stores the frequent targets of robberies, today's health-conscious consumer should know what to pluck off the shelves when bullets start flying. To that end, the experts at Safariland Limited, Inc., which calls itself one of the largest manufacturers of body armor in the world, gamely advised on the bullet-stopping abilities of various foodstuffs. Karri Armstrong, marketing projects manager for the body armor division, consulted her research-and-development department to arrive at the above conclusions.
Product: Tuna Helper
Quantity Required: 1
Theory: None. "Body armor's made of highly technical fibers, and I don't know what Tuna Helper's made of."
Product: Frozen Turkey
Quantity Required: 1
Theory: "One frozen turkey, held the correct way, not wih the orifices showing, but held perpendicular--it would stop a .22 with no problem. A frozen turkey is pretty tough."
Quantity Required: 3-4
Theory: "Twenty pounds apiece, if the bullet's going straight down the middle of a line of pumpkins."
Product: Gallon Jugs of Milk
Quantity Required: 2-3
Theory: "Probably two to three gallons of milk, the same way as the pumpkins. It's a .22 short, and in liquid that has a tendency to mushroom, so it would slow it down even more. So three gallons of milk you'd be safe, or strap that turkey to your front and you've got a vest."
Quantity Required: Truckload
Theory: "Bread's pretty soft, it would slow it down."
Quantity Required: infinite number
Theory: "The fact that they have a shelf life of three years, I don't know if they'd be a lifesaver. They'd clog your arteries before they'd stop a bullet...It would have to be an infinite number."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Tony Griff.