It is not uncommon for an officer to be fatally shot, even if the officer is wearing a bulletproof vest, said Daniel Lawson, a retired San Francisco police captain and the current senior director for Public Safety at the University of San Francisco.
Lawson said Thursday that while there are different types of ballistic vests, most officers on a day-to-day basis wear a Kevlar vest that covers an area just below the Adam's apple to just below the stomach in the front and most of the back.
"It protects the vital organs, like your heart and lungs," Lawson said. "But your head and neck are exposed, and the sides are a bit vulnerable as well."
Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said different vests provide officers with different levels of protection. Thinner, lighter vests generally stop fewer bullets or fewer rounds than heavier tactical-entry vests. Smith said, adding there are spots where bullets can sneak through vests.
About two decades ago, Smith recalled, the Los Angeles Police Department lost an officer when a rifle round got in through the armpit area of her vest.
"There's no perfect solution," he said, "depending on what weapon is being used and where the bullet strikes."
Smith's older brother, Patrick, said his heart goes out to the family of the fellow officer who accidentally shot and killed his colleague.
"We're going to mourn the loss of our brother. We'll never forget him," Patrick Smith, a field training officer with the Newark, Calif., police told KPIX-TV Wednesday about the death of his brother.
"But there's someone else in another family that's affected by this, too, and I feel sorry for them," said Patrick Smith, whose other brother, Ed Smith, is a deputy with the Alameda County Sheriff's Department.