Body armor and police products manufacturer Safariland honored four law enforcement officers today at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas by inducting them into the company's Saves Club.
Handing the officers plaques and challenge coins honoring their courage and service, Safariland Saves Club Liaison Ed Hinchey said membership in the club was "extremely exclusive." Safariland inducts officers into the Saves Club only after a Safariland body armor product protects them from death or serious injury.
To date 1763 officers have joined the Saves Club, which includes officers saved by Second Chance vests. Second Chance body armor was purchased by Safariland parent company Armor Holdings in 2005. Armor Holdings was subsequently acquired by BAE Systems.
Hinchey used today's press conference to introduce the first member of the Safariland Saves Club, Officer Richard Sheehan of the Colorado Springs Police Department, who was officially inducted into the Club today.
Sheehan, now retired, was on patrol in 1976 when he surprised some men breaking into a warehouse. The men fled. Sheehan called for backup and searched for them. During the search, one of the men shot Sheehan twice in the back with a .22 rifle. Sheehan was protected by his Safariland brand vest.
Sheehan was 30 years old when he was shot. During the presentation, he spoke of all the things in his life that he would have missed if he hadn't been wearing armor. "I really thank the people who made that Safariland vest," Sheehan said. "I know to them it was just a job, but I'm here to say they did a hell of a job."
Officer Britt Sweeney of the Seattle Police Department was only 30 days on the street when she and her training officer were ambushed on Halloween night 2009 by a man who drove up next to them and opened fire with a rifle. The training officer was struck by a .223-caliber bullet and killed. Sweeney was grazed twice by the fusilade, across the top of her head and across her spine. Despite the shock and trauma of the attack, she rolled out of the squad car to return fire as the gunman drove away.
Seattle officers say the bullet holes in the suspect's car from Sweeney's shots helped them solve the case. They also say she showed "remarkable composure" during the incident.
Sweeney returned to patrol in January 2010. She credits the training she received in the academy with helping her perform so well under fire. "I owe so much to the Washington State Training Commission," she says.
Officer Al Fong of the Saginaw (Mich.) Police Department was a member of a SWAT entry team when the suspect opened fire. Fong was struck in the left pelvis and in the chest. Neither round penetrated his Protech (Safariland) tactical vest.
While working an agency-sanctioned security job, Reston was shot during a point-blank engagement with a shoplifting suspect. Reston was wounded but his life was saved by his Safariland armor. He killed the suspect.
For his actions under fire, Reston was awarded with the U.S. Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor, one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon an American law enforcement officer.
Reston is still on the job with the Jacksonville County SO. Last year he was involved in another deadly battle with a multiple murder suspect. Discussing that incident, he said, "I knew I was good to go because I was wearing Safariland."
Closing the presentation, Safariland's Hinchey said, "The stories of officers saved by our body armor are what drives everybody at Safariland to do our very best."