SPENCER, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- As of Friday, it has been 10 days since two state troopers were shot and killed in the line of duty along Interstate 79.
A Roane County deputy also was shot. Thanks to his bulletproof vest, though, he's recovering at home.
Deputy John Westfall was shot several times in the upper body. But that vest kept the bullets from going into his body, allowing him to go home -- hurt but still alive. Now, there's concern other law enforcement officers in Roane County wouldn't be so lucky.
“We're taking chances every day you put a uniform on,” Sheriff Mikel Harper said. “All the law enforcement in this area are.”
Bulletproof vests can make the job safer. But some of the ones in Roane County are years out of date. A vest only has a life span of about five years.
“The one I keep in my cruiser myself is about eight to 10 years old,” Harper said.
More than his own safety, he worries about his deputies.
“They're my kids,” Harper said. “They're my family. I'm older than most of them. Shoot, I have 35 years in. That's longer than most of my deputies have been alive.”
That's why he's thrilled about a joint effort between the city and the county to raise money for new vests.
One of the special things about this fundraiser is that it doesn't help out just one department. These vests will go to both Spencer Police and Roane County Sheriff's Deputies, helping keep everybody safe.
Roane County Prosecutor Josh Downey says he'd like to see this movement spread throughout West Virginia.
“We encourage everybody -- not just here in Spencer and Roane County -- go talk with your local city governments, your local county commissions -- and really turn this into a statewide effort to give all local law enforcement the protection they need and deserve,” Downey said.
“Myself, I want to make sure my officers have got every chance they can to go home to their families,” Harper said. “And if you get new vests, that increases the chances of going home alive.”
Another important thing to mention-- it's not just about the age of these vests. The fit is also important. Each officer or deputy should be fit with their own vest for optimal protection. The first of those fittings from this fundraiser should start next week.
Harper also wants to extend his thanks to the community for its support of this fundraiser, as well as for the caring shown to Deputy Westfall and his family.
If you'd like to donate to the fundraiser, click on the Featured Links here at WSAZ.com.
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