Douglas County sheriff’s deputies are getting improved body armor that can withstand rifle bullets, and every patrol car will be outfitted with semi-automatic rifles because deputies increasingly are being outgunned on the streets, Sheriff Tony Spurlock said Thursday.
The equipment purchase is a result, Spurlock said, of the New Year’s Eve shooting where Deputy Zackari Parrish was killed and Deputies Taylor Davis, Jeff Pelle and Mike Doyle were wounded. Castle Rock police Officer Tom O’Donnell also was injured.
“We were ambushed and outgunned and put in a position to retreat,” Spurlock said.
The county commission has agreed to provide $446,522 to buy the new equipment, which also will include stronger ballistic shields, trauma kits for every patrol car and silencers for rifles. The vote to spend the money will be April 10, although commissioners have been attending roll calls this week to tell deputies about the new equipment, said Wendy Holmes, a commission spokeswoman.
Lora Thomas, the county commission vice chair, said she and her two fellow commissioners asked the sheriff’s office what they needed after the shooting. Deputies gave input on what they wanted, which is one reason new rifles will come with silencers, she said. The silencers will help deputies know whether shots are being fired by them or a suspect.
“We knew that in order for our citizens to be safe, our deputies needed equipment so they would be safe,” Thomas said.
For now, deputies buy their own ballistic plates, and Parrish did not have one in his vest that would have stopped the rounds fired by his killer, Spurlock said. Still, it is unknown whether one would have saved his life after the killer fired two assault rifles, a handgun and a shotgun.
“One of the biggest issues that we have right now is the weapons being used against law enforcement are rifles,” Spurlock said. “We had prepared ourselves for pistols, and now we’re having to prepare for rifles.”
In the past four years, every shot fired at a deputy — except for one — has been from a rifle, Spurlock said.
Those cases include the shooting of Deputy Dan Bright, who was paralyzed in September 2016 when he was shot by a man who had an AK-47 rifle, and last May’s 2017 traffic stop where Deputy Brad Proux was forced to make a split-second decision to shoot when he suddenly came face-to-face with a man holding an assault rifle.
Douglas County will buy high-end plates that will be lightweight, and Spurlock said he is leaning toward making it mandatory for deputies to wear them at all times.
“We can do it without being too outwardly militaristic,” he said.
During the New Year’s Eve shooting, Davis carried a ballistic shield that diffused a bullet, probably protecting her from more serious injuries, Spurlock said. It was not designed to stop high-velocity rounds fired from assault rifles, but the new shields will be.
That night, only some deputies responding to the call had rifles in their cars, and their pistols rendered them ineffective because they could not get close enough to try to shoot the suspect, Spurlock said. Now, every patrol car will be outfitted with a rifle and a trauma kit with blood-coagulating material and tourniquets.