Upstate coroners start wearing bullet proof vests - FOX Carolina 21

Upstate coroners start wearing bullet proof vests

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Spartanburg County Coroner's Office investigator in new bullet proof vest. (Source: Fox Carolina) Spartanburg County Coroner's Office investigator in new bullet proof vest. (Source: Fox Carolina)

It may not look like much, but a bullet proof vest could potentially save someone's life.  Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger said all six of his investigators now wear bullet proof vests.

"There are situations nationally where police officers are actually being called to scenes and being ambushed," said Rusty Clevenger.  He's referring to attacks like the Dallas shooting, another in Baton Rouge.

"I didn't want my investigators to feel any less protected than the police officers," said Clevenger.  Spartanburg County just got their vests in the past few weeks, but they aren't the only ones strapping in, to stay safe.

"The old adage, when I first came into office was, that the actions over when the coroner gets there... that's not necessarily so," said Dennis Fowler, the Cherokee County Coroner. 

He said he requested his office get the vests, and said coroners enter dangerous situations every day. The Charleston church shooting that tragically took the lives of 9 people last year, he said was an eye opener.

"There were plenty of people out there, plenty of fire power, plenty of police SLED agents, but the coroner in Charleston and her staff were out there without bullet proof vests," said Fowler.

He said almost immediately after that tragedy, the Charleston coroner's office got vests for their staff. and now agencies across the upstate are taking action.

"There have been twice, where my investigators actually called me from the scene telling me they're in fear for their life," said Clevenger. He said the times are changing, he does not currently have a vest, but says he hopes to in the future. 

"You need to come home to your family, you don't leave your house thinking, I might not come home today, that's not a way to be," said Clevenger.

Denis Fowler feels the same way, and said coroners can be just as much of a target as law enforcement recently has been. "On the back of my clothes it says coroner but it may be someone who's just looking for a police officer to shoot, and sees the badge, and starts shooting," he said.

The Cherokee County Coroner said coroners aren't required to wear vests, but he's pushing for all agencies across the state to get them."We want to go home to our families as well, and they want us to come home, so we want to take that extra precaution," said Fowler. 

Greenville County and Anderson County have warn bullet proof vests for the past year. Cherokee County will be receiving their vests in the upcoming weeks, and Spartanburg County were provided used vests from their Sheriff's Office, at not cost to the county. 

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