Tuesday , May 28 2024

Eyewitness News Investigates: Bulletproof Vests- In the Hands of Criminals

Eyewitness News Investigates– two suspected criminals in two days arrested wearing bullet proof vests in Fresno.  Police say this has been a concern for  along time, but say it’s trend that appears to be growing.

They’re the most important means of police protection.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer says, "We’ve had police officers had their lives saved because they wore vests."

Bulletproof vests have many times been the barrier between life and death, but more and more Fresno police are catching them in the hands of criminals.

"It increases their survivability," says Dyer.

Just this week, two days in a row, officers have arrested suspects armed with guns and bullet proof vests.  On Monday, it was year 35 year old gang member Vong Yang – a convicted felon- found holding two rifles and wearing a ballistics vest.  On Tuesday, police arrested gang member Ernesto Ojeda, who was also wearing a bulletproof vest, similar to what police wear.

"When our officers encounter those individuals it causes us to be more cautious, because these type of people are usually ready for some type of gun fight," says Dyer.

Also disturbing is just how easy anyone can purchase body armor. After searching bulletproof vests online, Eyewitness News found website after website advertising different shapes, styles and prices.  Several vests were even up for auction on Ebay.

Even though California restricts convicted felons from owning a bulletproof vests, with a clink of a button on the internet, anyone can purchase one. But, there are some stores in Fresno that do all they can to protect law enforcement and the community.

Metro Uniform owner Susan Levake says, "We feel that the face to face transactions with a vest is an important way  of protecting our extended family; our law enforcement in the area."

Levake’s store provides bulletproof vests to local officers and deputies.  Although she’s not required by law, she chooses to only sell to law enforcement and security personnel, requiring all customers to come inside the store and show proof of employment.

Levake says, "It weeds out someone who maybe not want to look us in the eye."

Online however, there’s little to no oversight.  We called a company that sells bulletproof vests and asked them if they check a person’s background to make sure they are not a convicted felon.  The answer was no; a reality that Chief Dyer says he hopes will soon be more restricted.

According to a manager at a military surplus store in Fresno, civilian bulletproof vests are for sale, but background checks are run to make sure a person is not a convicted felon.

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