Shield made in DeWitt praised for protecting officers in Pentagon attack

July 6th, 2010

Mobile shields made by a DeWitt company helped to protect police officers from a man who tried to shoot his way into the Pentagon March 4.

Defenshield Inc. said Pentagon officials told the company the day after the shooting that the shields, which the company calls mobile defensive fighting positions, were “instrumental in protecting the officers during the incident.”

Theresa Brigandi, vice president of marketing for Defenshield, said the Pentagon has not given the company any more information about the role the shields played. But she said one indication that the shields were hit is that the Pentagon ordered two replacement shields the next day.

She said the company has been invited to meet with Pentagon officials early next month to discuss ways to enhance security at the building’s entrances. She said the company is hoping to learn more then about how its shields performed.

Chris Layman, a spokesman for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, confirmed that the shields played a role in protecting the officers. He said two of the four officers involved were standing behind shields provided by Defenshield when John Patrick Bedell, 36, of California, pulled out a gun at the Metro subway entrance to the Pentagon and began shooting.

He identified the two officers as Colin Richards and Marvin Carraway Jr. Carraway was wounded but has recovered. The Pentagon spokesman would not say how Carraway was exposed to gunfire.

Two other officers — Jeffery Amos and Dexter Jones — were also standing guard at the entrance, though not behind the shields, Layman said. Amos also was wounded in the attack but has recovered.

The officers fired back at Bedell and fatally wounded him. Police said he appeared to have a history of mental illness and had no ties to terrorists.

All four officers were honored at the Pentagon Hall of Heroes June 25.

The armored shields made by Defenshield have been used at the Pentagon since 2004. The devices are 76 inches tall and 36 inches wide. The lower half of the shields is made of armor, and the upper half is made of glass that can stop any bullet up to and including a 30-06 armor-piercing round, making them particularly effective against snipers, according to Defenshield.

The devices can be pushed around on wheels and are typically used at entrances to high-security facilities to provide protection to guards. Defenshield says officers can reach around the shields to return fire. Unlike body armor, which only protects a guard’s midsection, the shields provide head-to-toe protection, the company says.

Brigandi said the glass on the top of the shields will appear to shatter when hit by a bullet. However, the glass actually “captures” the bullet, and a special coating on the back side keeps any glass fragments from coming off the shield, she said. The Pentagon likely replaced the two units for aesthetic purposes, she said.

In the weeks following the shooting, the Pentagon ordered more shields, she said.

Air Force veteran and former Carrier Corp. engineer William Collins White III founded Defenshield in 2002 to protect security personnel in airports after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The company says more than 1,000 of its ballistic shields have been deployed around the world by the U.S. military and federal law enforcement agencies, and at courthouses and nuclear facilities. They cost about $15,000 each.

The company recently began marketing a modified version of the shields for use on ships traveling pirate-infested waters off the coast of Somalia and elsewhere.

Defenshield employs 11 people in DeWitt and contracts with other manufacturers, mostly in the Upstate area, to fabricate the components and assemble the shields.

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