Police body armor isn’t a perfect shield, but two incidents in the past week — one in Georgia, one in New Jersey — demonstrate how critical the safety equipment can be when officers find themselves in the line of fire.
The incidents come just days after the AJC highlighted how the shooting deaths of two Georgia officers this year has forced agencies in the state to re-examine body armor policies. In both cases, the officers were not wearing body armor at the time of the shootings.
A Sept. 13 incident could very well have led to the death of a third Georgia cop had Jackson police Officer Sherry Hall not been wearing her body armor vest.
Authorities are still searching for the man who shot Hall after she spotted the man along a tree line and exited her vehicle. Hall is sore and bruised, but recovering this week from the impact of the bullet that struck her vest just below the rib cage, according to her chief.
“It certainly did its job,” Jackson police Chief James Morgan said. “Without the body armor the area of the impact, it could have been fatal.”
In New Jersey, the officer who helped capture the New York City bombing suspect on Monday was saved by his body armor vest. Linden police Officer Angel Padilla came upon the bombing suspect sleeping in the doorway of a local tavern. When Padilla approached him, the suspect pulled out a gun and shot the officer in the torso, but the vest stopped the bullet.
Padilla fired back and police captured the suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami. Padilla was treated at a local hospital.
“Thankfully he had his vest on,” said his brother, Lt. Eddie Padilla, told USA Today. “Anytime you put on the uniform you put the vest on. It’s extremely crucial.”