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A U.S. Marshal was been killed early this morning in a Georgia trailer park when his ballistic vest failed to stop a rifle bullet.

Law enforcement officers across the nation are morning the death of a U.S. marshal based in Macon who was killed in the line of duty.

Just before 9 a.m. Friday, Long County law enforcement officers responded to the fatal shooting of a U.S. deputy marshal.

Pat Carothers, 53, was wounded while serving an arrest warrant near the rear of the Spring Creek Mobile Home Park on Tibet Road in Ludowici.

The suspect, Dontrell Montese Carter, was armed with a rifle as marshals came to serve a warrant for attempted murder of police officers, domestic violence and unlawfully discharging a weapon in Sumter County, S.C.

Carter also was fatally wounded. A news release from the U.S. Marshals Service says the suspect was killed by officers who returned fire.

“It’s terrible,” said John Edgar of the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force that Carothers commanded. “He was just a great family man, a great employee, a great mentor and a great leader.”

Carothers, the commander of the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force was wearing his protective vest when he was hit twice, once at the top of his vest.

One of the bullets hit his heart.

Monroe County Sheriff John Cary Bittick said protective gear has its limitations.

“Those vests are not going to stop a rifle round,” said Bittick, who lost officer Michael Norris in a shooting two years ago.

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A sad reality is that there isn’t such thing as a “bulletproof” vest, just varying levels of resistance to projectiles. Most law enforcement patrol officers wear flexible soft body armor designed to stop the most common threats officers usually face in the line of duty, which are the most common handgun rounds.

There are also several grades of hard armor designed to stop much higher-velocity rifle rounds, but they are very heavy, very hot, and hard to move around in. Because of this, they are typically relegated to particularly high-risk operations where officers expect to come in contact with particularly dangerous threats.

The accounts so far are potentially contradictory. Monroe County Sheriff John Cary Bittick suggests that the the Marshal’s armor wasn’t rifle-rated, while a few lines above it suggests that the bullet hit the top of his vest, above the armor, and went through the vest to strike him in the heart or the major arteries and veins just above it.

One of the most common mistakes we see with plate carrier armor  it make not be properly adjusted for the wearer. A stunning number of people wear plate carriers in such a way that the armor plate itself is too low to protect the heart and the blood vessels coming out of the top of the heart.

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That was one of our specific criticisms of a self-styled militia in Georgia just two weeks ago.

We offer our condolences to Marshal Caraothers fellow officers and family, and hope that other officers take the time to ensure that their armor rides high enough to protect their vitals.