Bulletproof vest intended to protect fallen officer in Las Vegas considered standard among law enforcement

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The bullet that killed a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police (LVMPD) officer last week passed through the body armor meant to protect him, investigators said.

Officials questioned that any vest would have saved him, but hundreds of officers in the valley wear the vest every day.

LVMPD Deputy Sheriff Andrew Walsh confirmed at a press conference on Monday that Truong Thai, 49, was wearing body armor in left parts of his body that were vulnerable to gunfire. The bullet that killed him entered his body through the side of his abdomen, which the vest did not protect.

The vest is similar to those worn by other officers nationwide, according to Steve Grammas, president of the Las Vegas Police Protection Association, the union that represents thousands of active and retired LVMPD officers.

“I don’t know too many vests that will stop a 726 round or a .223 round,” Grammas said. “It’s very difficult to cover you completely.”

Bulletproof vests are classified according to their degree of protection against gunfire. The standard protection for a vest is considered Level IIIA, Grammas says, which is “tested to stop .357 SIG and .44 Magnum ammunition fired from a longer barrel,” according to the Justice Department. But, the same vest is not effective against rifle ammo.

That’s the kind of ammunition fired from Tyson Hampton’s gun, 24, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said at the suspect’s court appearance Tuesday morning. He describes the AK-pistol hybrid being used as a weapon meant to “kill a lot of people”.

“I don’t think, with what we saw, a different vest would have played a role. I really don’t know,” Grammas said. “An officer can’t go out in full tactical gear like a SWAT guy.”

So why don’t officers wear vests with more protection? According to the union president, the extra protection under the armpit and the side of the torso “would probably be the most uncomfortable thing you could (wear), without (being able to) give up”. He said it would also be inefficient for day-to-day operations.

Additionally, he said the type of weapon used in the shooting is not commonly seen on the streets. The possibility of encountering one is ever present, he acknowledged, leaving everyday officers at risk of the same fate as Thai.

“Is it possible that the agents who wear themselves out on the street aren’t enough to protect them?” 8 News Now asked, to which Grammas replied, “absolutely.”

He added that LVMPD officers are responsible for purchasing their own body armor because officers hired before 2014 are not required to wear a vest by the department. Officers receive an annual clothing allowance that covers the costs of uniforms, vests and tools each year, though Grammas said the most protective vests on the market can top that amount by costing upwards of $1,500.

8 News Now has also connected with other law enforcement agencies over their vest policy. The North Las Vegas Police Department said it provides officers with a vest, but requires them to upgrade it if officers wish. The Nevada State Police said it purchases and updates its officers’ vests every five years. National body armor policies vary by agency

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