KATY, Texas (FOX 26) - Police departments across the country are shelling out big bucks to keep their officers safe. Now a local body armor company has discovered an unexpected market also interested in personal protection -- parents of school children.
When this local first grader heads off to school, she has her pencils, her lunch and a bulletproof plate in her backpack.
“This is the plate here and it's not heavy. It slides into this Velcro pocket and you can't even see it,” mother Sherri Nieto said.
Like many parents, Sherri Nieto couldn't shake the memories of Sandy Hook when her daughter started school.
“If it does God forbid happen, I want her to have that extra little protection. If it helps any kid come home, it's worth anything,” Nieto said.
Six months ago, vets Mike Hlozek and Billy Gibbons left their jobs in oil and gas to start Veterans Manufacturing in Katy.
“We’re in this not so much for money, but to benefit society,” Gibbons said.
They make ultra-light body armor sold in retail shops like Payne Brothers Firearms.
The Katy Police Department has bought 10 of their bulletproof shields designed to protect officers from an ambush attack while sitting in their patrol cars.
“You're covered from anyone walking up, reaching in the window, shooting, grabbing it, whatever it is. You're totally covered,” Hlozek said.
Their main clients are police departments and security companies, but the owners have noticed a growing market for something else. We actually had customers come to us and ask if they could put the panels into backpacks.
For Nieto, it is priceless protection for her daughter.
“She can just slip her arms this way and wear it here or put both arms through and duck behind it,” said Nieto said demonstrating ways to use the backpack.
She gets that the plate is just one tool. Nothing replaces good school security and emergency planning drills.
“There has to be something better than run, hide, fight. So we're implementing something we call run, hide, turtle,” Gibbons said.
“Turtle”—kids are taught to cover themselves with the backpack like a turtle.
“I’m not sure she'll ever understand the real magnitude of it and I hope she doesn’t, but she knows it's to protect her,” Nieto said.