National Campaign to Protect Local Law Officers From Deadly Fire Hits Home

Photo By Cindy Valade

Trevor Phipps

The nonprofit Shield 616 group has launched a huge “Protect Our Protectors” campaign, aimed at shielding local law officers from deadly fire.

The nonprofit specializes in equipping local law enforcement agents with body armor that can stop gun fire from an assault rifle.

Last week, Shield 616, in two local events, presented more than 70 sets of rifle armor to the Teller County Sheriff’s Office. During the two presentations, every law enforcement officer received a custom fit body armor setup including the Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell and his entire command staff.

According to Mikesell, the equipment the sheriff’s department had was nearing the five year mark meaning that it would no longer be effective. The county would then be tasked with coming up with around $200,000 to replace the much needed equipment.

Mikesell said during the presentation that his main goal as a sheriff centers around the issue of making sure his deputies are equipped with everything they need to do their jobs. “I had recently had a discussion with all of my staff about how we needed to figure out how to get vests for everyone,” Mikesell said. “I want the best of the best and I won’t take anything less. Because each of their lives mean something to their families and to me and I never want to have to talk to somebody and tell them we didn’t do enough.”

Photo By Cindy Valade

Mikesell said that while he was discussing the issue with his command staff, he received great news from Shield 616 founder Jake Skifstad. “I was in a meeting with my staff trying to figure out how we were going to do this because we really need it,” the sheriff explained. “Renee Bunting (a lieutenant and long-time member of the sheriff’s department) then walked into the office when I was discussing with my command staff that our vests had expired and we had to figure out a way to pay for these things. Sometimes you don’t have the tax dollars to do that especially when we are talking about $200,000 worth of equipment. She walked in and said that Jake Skifstad just called and we had an anonymous donor step forward that wants to fund the vests.”

The donor came up with almost enough money to cover all of the deputies getting new vests. The sheriff said that the Honorary Deputy Sheriff’s Association was then able to cover the rest of the money since they have raised extra this year in their fundraising efforts.

The sheriff said that he met with Skifstad ,and after inspecting the equipment he determined that it was the “best of the best.” “Angel Armor is not easy to come by,” Mikesell said. “It’s probably the best armor in existence today. You just can’t beat it those plates weigh about as much as a notebook, which is unreal to me. I remember being a SWAT guy trying to run to a call at full speed carrying about 65 pounds of equipment and knowing that if somebody goes down you have to carry them.”

Photo By Cindy Valade

The rifle-proof vests are made out of a high density plastic that makes them lightweight and strong enough to stop bullets shot from most rifles. The vests are custom fit to each deputy and they also come with Kevlar which adds extra protection for the law enforcement agents.

During the presentation, all three of the county commissioners were present and the sheriff applauded them for being the most supportive county commissioners he has ever worked with. “It was news to me that if you take this armor and put it on the shelf, five years from now it’s not good,” County Commission Chairman Dan Williams said. “So, I apologized to Jason (Mikesell) and we talked about it and we’re not going to let that happen again. We have to have the best because I’ve been where Jason has been where you have to look at a wife, or a daughter, or a son or husband or whoever and say I’m sorry he didn’t make it and I could have made a difference.”

Former Colorado Springs SWAT Officer Starts Shield 616

Photo By Cindy Valade

Skifstad started his presentation with explaining why he started the organization, and why officers need armor that can withstand rifle gunfire. He explained that most officers wear what is called “soft vests” that are made of Kevlar and only are meant to withstand bullets coming from pistols and handguns.

He then talked about his personal experience as a SWAT officer during two active shooter scenarios. “I was a patrol officer in December 2007 and I was one of the officers that responded to the New Life Church active shooter,” Skifstad said. “Later in my career I was very blessed to be attached to our SWAT team and I was one of the SWAT officers that responded to the active shooter at Planned Parenthood on Black Friday 2015. In both of these shootings, we went up against individuals whose only intent that day was to go out and to kill whoever they came across. What made them common was their weapon of choice. They both chose to use a rifle.”

Skifstad then decided to start Shield 616 shortly after the Planned Parenthood center shootings in Colorado Springs to work towards equipping officers with rifle-grade body armor. The name came from the bible verse Ephesians 6:16 that states, “Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”