Douglas County Sheriff's Office to upgrade equipment after deadly shooting of officer

Posted at 12:46 PM, Mar 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-30 14:46:52-04

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. -- The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is getting some big equipment upgrades. Sheriff Tony Spurlock asked for more money from the Douglas County Commissioner’s Court to better protect his employees.

Those upgrades include better bulletproof vests that can withstand rifle shots.

“Obviously these high-powered rifles, (our current vests) are not going to protect against those unfortunately,” said Steve Johnson, the Chief Deputy of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. “But if we can get plate carriers…that’s going to increase the chances that our deputies will come home safely. This fire power that they are coming up against, the vest gives them a fighting chance.”

Johnson says the last several times that suspects shot at officers involved high-power weapons.

Matthew Riehl used four guns in his ambush of sheriff’s deputies, including an M16 rifle, an M4 rifle, a shotgun and a Glock. He legally owned 15 guns.

Sheriff Spurlock also want more shields for the deputies to hold in front of themselves when confronting a dangerous suspect.

“Certainly we are of the belief that the shield that Deputy Davis was holding saved her life, without a doubt,” Johnson said.

The sheriff’s office also wants to add semi-automatic rifles to every patrol car.

“In our last two shootings that we have had, they have been with high-powered rifles and assaults on our deputies, and so we looked at that and we said to ourselves: ‘What we do to meet the fire power that the suspects are bringing to us?’” Johnson said.

The sheriff’s office wants to put silencers on the semi-automatic rifles so that deputies can tell who is shooting and better distinguish friendly fire from that of a suspect.

“They are very loud. Tactically it’s sound for us to have suppressors. When you are in that, we need complete focus and complete concentration and so we want to provide that,” Johnson said.

The sheriff’s office also wants trauma kits with blood-coagulating material and tourniquets so that the deputies can help each other as medics respond to their calls for help.

“Since Dec. 31, since that day, we have been looking at and saying to ourselves, ‘What could we do differently? What should we have done differently? What can we do in the future to make sure that these deputies that are out there trying to serve and protect our community get that fighting chance to go home?’” Johnson said.

The upgrades will end up costing around $466,000 -- an amount county commissioners already approved.

Johnson says the county commissioners’ court has been also doing whatever it can to provide more resources for deputies. In the end, for the commissioners and sheriff’s office, the goal is to never add another name to the fallen heroes wall outside the Robert A. Christensen Justice Center again, no matter the cost.

“We don’t set the price tag, you know,” Johnson said. “If we could have Zack back and trade him for all this equipment, every last one of us would want to do that. But as it stands right now, these are the things that we need to do to give everyone else a fighting chance.”

A blood drive in honor of Deputy Zack Parrish was also set for Friday.