SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP/CBS) — A Massachusetts police officer who survived an attempted stabbing by an arson suspect was likely saved by a ceramic plate in the center of his bulletproof vest directly above his heart.

Acting Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said Thursday that Officer Gregory Vatrano is lucky to be alive after the knife glanced off his so-called trauma plate. It did not penetrate his skin.

Springfield Police Officer Gregory Vatrano (Image credit Mass Live)

Vatrano responded at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday to the fire allegedly set by 39-year-old Ruben Barrero, angry after being thrown out of his mother’s home.

When officers arrived, Barrero was gone. Officers located him about a mile away. That’s when he allegedly lunged towards Officer Vatrano, stabbing him in the chest.

“Officer Vatrano was struck in the chest with a loud punching bang motion to his chest, Officer Stelter said the hit to the chest was so loud he heard it from a little bit away, the two began to struggle violently on the ground with Mr. Barrero on top of Officer Vatrano he was delivering blows to the officers head and body,” said Clapprood.

Vatrano is the brother of Florida Panthers player Frank Vatrano and the cousin of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. Mayor Sarno said his cousin is thankful to be alive and anxious to get back to work.

“He’s doing fine. He did break his hand. And he took some abrasions and he wants to be able to come back, when he’s all set to go,” Mayor Sarno said.

Ruben Barrero (Photo credit: Springfield Police Department)

Barrero was held without bail Thursday after a judge entered not guilty pleas on his behalf to charges including attempted murder and arson.

Barrero’s attorney asked that his client undergo a mental health evaluation.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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