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N.C. department borrows bulletproof vests

By Jesse James DeConto
The News & Observer
Copyright 2008 The News and Observer

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The Chapel Hill Fire Department borrowed nearly 40 bulletproof vests for its EMTs in March in case of gang violence during a potential Final Four celebration for the Tar Heels.

The department has also applied for a $40,000 federal grant to purchase 30 vests and two ballistic blankets to cover victims in case they have to respond to situations in which bullets are flying.

Fire Chief Dan Jones said the vests will protect emergency crews in neighborhoods such as Pine Knolls, where one teenager shot another this year.

“We’ve had some fights down in there where we had to wait until the police were in there first,” he said. “I don’t want a situation where we have people lying, bleeding to death because we can’t go.”

Jones said he has been thinking about the ballistic vests since a 2006 shooting at the Apple Chill street festival. “Some of our guys were close to that,” he said. “They were close enough to hear it and could see the crowd running.”

Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian Curran said almost all patrol officers wear ballistic vests, and Jones wants the same for his emergency medical technicians in case of gang violence or campus shootings.

“It gets a little touch-and-go with the gang-type characters that come in and hang out,” Jones said. “Some of the gang guys we have come over ... make me want to have the same level of protection that the police have.”