Fort Collins company creates life-saving bulletproof vests

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Three Colorado deputies have been killed in just more than a month, even though all three were wearing body armor.

It begs the question why this gear meant to save lives isn't doing the job.

Most vests issued by law enforcement agencies won't protect an officer from a round fired by a rifle, just a handgun.

Heavier, sturdier vests are often too cumbersome to wear, and are typically only worn by specialized units such as SWAT teams.

A Fort Collins-based company is on a mission to change that.

Angel Armor manufactures rifle plates for bullet-resistant vests. The plates are able to withstand rounds from handguns and rifles and cover most of an officer's vital organs.

"I think most officers don't know what they're issued. I never did. It's just here's your body armor take it. I wasn't really concerned about the level, I just figured it was something it would protect me," said Brian Brown, an officer with the Loveland Police Department.

Brown has been a patrol officer for the past 11 years. Many police agencies do provide patrol officers with bullet resistant vests.

The problem is, most will only stop rounds from handguns, not rifles.

"It's bullet resistant. It's not a bulletproof vest, it's bullet-resistant, and even then its specific rounds it's built and tested to," Brown said.

Larger, rifle-resistant vests are 20 to 40 pounds heavier. The rifle plates that Angel Armor manufactures are a solution to that problem.

Currently, only a handful of agencies provide the plates to their officers. In most cases, the officers have to purchase the plates themselves.

The smallest plates cost about $200 apiece.

There are federal grants law enforcement agencies that will cover half the cost.

As for the plates, it's gear Brian Brown believes in. This week, he is walking away from his career in law enforcement to begin a new one as a full-time sales representative for Angel Armor.

"I can tell you my wife is not disappointed that I'm leaving right now," Brown said. "I'm still serving my brothers and sisters out on the street and protecting them with something I know works," he said.