Body armor saved police officer’s life

LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- Lakewood Police OfficerJon Key never got a chance to get out of his patrol car when he was shot on July 5, 2014.

"My vest made a huge difference," said Key remembering the incident when he was shot in the chest responding to a welfare check. Now 36, Key was a 32-year-old patrol officer when he was shot by Gordon Moench, a man intent on suicide by cop, who had a rifle pointed at Key's police cruiser when he pulled up to Moench's house.

 

"Thank god it went through the windshield first. Most concealable soft body armor vests are not designed to handle rifle rounds," said Key who was hit by a 7.62 caliber bullet, which would normally be strong enough to penetrate his body armor.

Key was wearing a Level 3A vest and suspects it only protected him because the windshield slowed the bullet down just enough.  Level 3A vests are designed to stop most handgun rounds but not rifle rounds.

"It kind of gouged down my chest so if that had penetrated right here, depending on what it hit, 10 seconds maybe before I bleed out," said Key.

Lakewood Police have an optional policy when it comes to wearing ballistic vests.  Officers are given a $700 stipend to buy a vest but it doesn't mandate what level of vest an officer buys or even requires them to get one.

In 2014, Key says he could choose a more flexible 2A vest or a less comfortable but higher rated 3A vest and he says choosing a 3A probably saved his life, "Very thankful I was wearing a 3A instead of a 2A."

After he was shot Key spent $1,000 of his own money to buy an even better Level 4 vest with a rifle resistant plate designed to stop the very bullet that nearly killed him.

"What motivated me to buy it was getting shot hurts and if I was going into a situation that had a high likelihood of shots fired or shots already being fired I wanted a little something extra to throw on, then just my soft body armor vest."

In November, Key switched agencies and now works for the Department of Revenue doing marijuana enforcement.  He says the job is less dangerous but even the Department of Revenue now provides its investigators with Level 3 body armor that can stop a rifle round.

Key hopes more departments will increase their spending on officer safety to give cops a better chance of survival if they ever get shot, "If you wear a badge I mean these days you`re a target."

Gordon Moench, who shot a female officer in the knee in addition to shooting Key, was sentenced to 120 years in prison for the two officer-involved shootings.

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