Senior Deputy Robert Riggs watched as the men surrounded the squad car and opened fire, covering the car—and his partner—in a swarm of bullets. The armor-paneled doors withstood the attack, but the glass in the driver’s side window blew out, leaving Riggs’ partner’s head vulnerable. His partner raised his hands to protect his face and head, taking bullet wounds to his hands in the process, while also firing his own weapon. Ultimately, he survived the attack, with his ballistic retaliation likely saving his life.
The incident set Riggs, who serves with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in California, to thinking about officer protection. According to figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, most law enforcement officers who were killed with a firearm while wearing body armor were shot in the head or throat. Between 2005 and 2014, only 29 percent of the officers who were killed with a firearm while wearing body armor were shot in the torso.1