A program that helps pay for Chicago police vests may have saved an officer's life.
It's called "Get Behind the Vest.”
An officer who was honored Tuesday for helping to take illegal guns off the street was wearing one of the vests when he was shot.
“I’m lucky and grateful, both of them,” said Officer Fernando Soto.
Officer Soto is grateful for the bulletproof vest that may have saved his life. Three weeks ago near 87th and Paulina, Soto and his partner confronted a suspect who they believed was carrying a gun. Soto and the suspect exchanged fire. The suspect was hit in the neck and Soto was hit in the back of his bulletproof vest.
“The bullet had penetrated his vest, and was lodged inside of it. Fortunately, the vest worked, and Officer Soto was bruised, but not injured beyond that,” said Phil Cline of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.
Soto joined the force eight years ago. New officers are given vests, which typically need replacement after five years, out of their own pocket, at a cost of $500. But recently, the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation has picked up the tab, purchasing 8,000 vests for CPD officers like Officer Soto.
“This is the first of the new vests that have stopped a bullet and saved a police officer,” Cline said.
“I’m just grateful that we have Phil here and the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation that gives us the opportunity and has the platform that allows for us to have the equipment and something as important as the vest,” Officer Soto said.
Soto's incident came one day after Officer Samuel Jiminez was shot and killed at Mercy Hospital.
“I didn't know officer Jiminez, but it hurts when we lose one of ours. So to possibly lose one of mine was kind of racing through my mind,” said Commander William Bradley.
The suspect, 22-year-old Bryce Jones Lanum, faces several charges, including attempted murder.