Bulletproof vest may have saved trooper | VailDaily.com

Bulletproof vest may have saved trooper

Heidi Rice
Kara K. Pearson/Post Independent Sgt. Tim Fisher demonstrates how to put on a bulletproof vest that weighs a little less than 10 pounds at the Garfield County Sheriff's Office.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – If it hadn’t been for the bulletproof vest Colorado State Trooper Brian Koch was wearing on the night he was shot, the outcome might have been completely different.Koch was shot twice in the chest and once in the forearm during a routine traffic stop on County Road 346 near Silt on Oct. 24. The bullets that hit Koch’s vest left bruises, but that’s all. The one shot that did damage shattered his forearm. He underwent surgery and was hospitalized for several days, but is doing well.Police believe Steven Appl, 33, is the person who shot Koch. Appl shot and killed himself at a police checkpoint Wednesday night.According to State Patrol Capt. Rich Duran, all state troopers are required to wear bulletproof vests while on duty.

“For all of the line personnel and supervisors, by law, it’s part of the uniform,” Duran said. “But there’s different types of vests based on levels. Some are thicker and some are heavier. It’s a life-saving piece of equipment for us, and it obviously saved Trooper Koch’s life.”While the State Patrol and the Eagle County and Garfield County sheriff’s offices require their officers to wear the vests, it’s voluntary for some other police departments.”It’s not required by law, but most of our (officers) wear them,” said Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson. “That is one of the differences we’ve noticed over the last 20 years. If we don’t have 100 percent of (officers) wearing them, it’s really, really close to it.”Wilson said that 25 years ago, about 25 to 40 percent of the officers wore bulletproof vests. Now, nearly all of them do – especially those on routine patrol. “I’d be very surprised if we have three or four people in the valley that don’t religiously wear their vests,” Wilson said.What once used to be heavy and cumbersome equipment, bulletproof vests have evolved with technology and are now lighter weight and easier to wear. The vests are made of Kevlar, a strong weave of fiber material that essentially traps a bullet and repels it, Wilson said.

There are several different grades of bulletproof vests that ward off a variety of ammunition, from handguns to shotguns.”There are grades of thickness that are intended for the shape and size of the bullet to penetration versus the point of contact,” Wilson said. “There are all kinds of styles, depending on what you’re doing.”A typical bulletproof patrol vest weighs about seven to eight pounds with the most durable at 35 pounds.The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office requires its officers to wear bulletproof vests as part of a deputy’s uniform, said Sheriff Lou Vallario.”Everybody is issued one,” Vallario said. “And obviously, it’s a smart thing to wear. For cops on the street, it depends on the threat level. There are a series of levels that offer different levels of protection. But the intended use is for exactly what happened to Brian (Koch).”

The vest mainly protects the officer’s torso and crotch area. “Nobody says you’re going to walk away unhurt, but it does protect the vital organs,” Vallario said.The vests range in cost from $500 to $1,200. However, there are grants available that will pay up to 50 percent of the cost of the equipment.”But (bulletproof vests) regularly contribute to saving lives of law enforcement officers,” Wilson said.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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