Donations will help Mount Dora police buy active shooter vests

Photo by Mount Dora Police Department

The mutual admiration between a Mount Dora resident and the police department is one reason the community’s officers feel a little safer today.

Resident James “Lefty” Bruce, decked out Wednesday in a kilt and tam o’ shanter, made his second donation this month to help purchase active shooter vests for Mount Dora police officers. Lefty presented a check for $6,000 to Police Chief John O’Grady. The money was raised through Lefty’s foundation, Lefty’s Hopes and Dreams, and will go to the Mount Dora Heroes Foundation specifically to be used for the vests.

Lefty says his regard for Chief O’Grady and the department is one reason he wanted to make the donation.

“This is the finest small-town police department in all of the United States,” says Lefty, 88, adding that he’s been a longtime volunteer in law enforcement around the country. In return, the chief called Lefty a “wonderful friend” of the department.

The police department’s goal is to have 25 vests, which cost $400 to $600 each, the chief says. Lefty says he has another $1,000 in donations lined up, and Mayor Nick Girone and a friend on Wednesday also chipped in $200 apiece for another vest. In total, the department will be able to buy about 18 vests, which is in addition to the four vests purchased with Lefty’s March 9 donation.

The lifesaving active shooter vests contain steel plates capable of stopping high-velocity bullets that an officer’s normal ballistic vest is not capable of stopping.

“If officers get in harm’s way, they will not get shot,” Lefty says.

Resident Lefty Bruce, School Resource Officer Mike Garcia, and Mount Dora Police Chief John O’Grady at March 9 vest donation event. // Photo by Mount Dora Police Department

This type of vest usually is used by SWAT members, but the vests have been modified for “fast action” so officers can don the vests quickly during an incident, Chief O’Grady says. His department is the first in the area that he’s aware of to provide active shooter vests to patrol and school resource officers. They will keep the vests at hand in their vehicles should an active shooter incident arise, he says.

Naturally, Chief O’Grady says he hopes the vests never see action.

Mayor Girone also presented Lefty with his Mayor’s Award, on behalf of the City Council and “a grateful city,” for honorable service and contributions to the Mount Dora Police Department.

The Mount Dora Heroes Foundation is a 501(3)(c) nonprofit organization that supports these main causes: the Public Safety Memorial, from which funds are given to the families of fallen officers; the K-9 Program, which is used to purchase new K-9 officers, as well as support medical expenses for retired police dogs; and community involvement, which supports officer safety projects and the promotion of crime prevention programs.

Anyone interested in donating to the Mount Dora Heroes Foundation may visit mountdoraheroesfoundation.com.

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