ATLANTA — The widow of a slain Georgia police officer hopes to learn more about why his ballistic vest didn’t save him from gunshots.
Bullets pierced Police Officer Kevin Jordan’s back, even though that area of his body was covered by his vest during the 2014 shooting outside a Waffle House in the west Georgia town of Griffin, his wife, Tammy Jordan, and her lawyer maintain in an ongoing federal lawsuit.
The case comes as police agencies nationwide consider upgrading their protection over concerns that current gear can be pierced by high-powered weapons. In Atlanta, for instance, Mayor Kasim Reed in August announced plans to spend $1.9 million for new helmets and vests able to stop rifle rounds.
The Georgia lawsuit names as a defendant Michigan-based Armor Express. In court documents, the company denied that one of its vests failed to meet standards.
Jordan was shot five times while intervening in a fight while working an off-duty security job at the restaurant, according to the lawsuit.
“The vest was designed to protect Officer Jordan “from bullet wounds or being shot by a .40-caliber handgun in his upper, middle and low back areas,” Tammy Jordan contends in the lawsuit.
The specific type of weapon and ammunition used to kill Jordan can’t be released because it’s an open criminal case, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a statement Friday.
An FBI annual report on officer killings shows Jordan was shot five times at close range with a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun.
The family’s lawyer, Anitra Price, said she has had a difficult time getting information about the vest, but will finally get a chance to see and inspect the equipment the slain officer was wearing during a meeting Friday at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s office in Midland.
“Finally someone will lay eyes on this vest,” Price said. “We just want to know what happened as far as his vest is concerned.”
Rifle rounds can punch through many of the vests typically worn by local police departments, said Sam Jeffrey, a former federal law officer who is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.
Jeffrey said he wanted his students to have the best protection possible after they graduated and began their law enforcement careers, so he began a fundraising effort to help purchase top-flight body armor for local police departments.
In May, the FBI reported that 30 of the 41 officers slain in the line of duty in 2015 were wearing body armor at the time of their deaths.
Some officers killed in recent years have died from gunshots that struck parts of their body not protected by armor, but others have been shot right through it, the FBI has reported.
In 2014, an Alaska State Trooper was killed by a semi-automatic rifle round that exceeded his vest’s specifications, and gunfire from semi-automatic rifles penetrated the body armor worn by police officers in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Brentwood, New Hampshire, killing them, FBI reports show.
Also that year, a gunman hiding in the woods opened fire with a rifle on a Pennsylvania State Police trooper, penetrating both the front and back of his vest, the reports said. He was also killed.