Harrisburg Police request grant funding for body armor plating

HARRISBURG, P.A. --- On January 18, authorities say Kevin Sturgis, 31, opened fire on U.S. Marshals serving a warrant.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Christopher Hill, 45, died as a result of a gunshot wound while two other officers were struck but survived.

Authorities say Sturgis was also killed following a gunfight with law enforcement.

Capt. Gabriel Olivera with the Harrisburg Bureau of Police said one of the surviving officers, Harrisburg officer Jeffery Cook, was struck by handgun fire but a plate prevented any serious injury.

"These plates have shown recently here that they protect lives," said Olivera.

He said every year, the Dauphin County District Attorney's office and county commissioners have a certain amount of funding put towards law enforcement departments through money collected from casinos.

He said the Harrisburg police department applied for a grant to receive funding for ten additional body armor plates.

"The plate carriers that we've requested is for long gun rounds," said Olivera.

He explained that any officer that joins the Harrisburg Bureau of Police gets a soft body vest, only capable of stopping a handgun round similar to the caliber officers carry.

"Even if an officer is struck in the soft body armor, it still causes traumatic injury on the inside. With the plate armor, it protects them much more," said Olivera.

717 Armory in Swatara Township held a demo of plated body armor to several Dauphin County law enforcement departments a little over a week ago.

Owner and U.S. Marine veteran Patrick Connaghan said he believes body armor protection is more important to an officer than a firearm.

"It's there to stop the initial hail of bullets so that they can either get to cover or actively get into the gunfight and start responding with their own firepower," said Connaghan.

He said he believes soft armor for officers is becoming a "thing of the past" and officers need the capability to protect against rifle-power weapons.

"It gives the officers a peace of mind knowing that hey, I'm going to work today and I have a better chance of coming home," said Connaghan.

Olivera said Harrisburg officers would carry the body armor plating in their vehicles and use them if the threat of a long gun arises.

He said the grant process is expected to start in the next month and a half and if they receive the funding, it will be distributed in June or July.