Nikki Skifstad and her husband Luke, have recently returned to International Falls from Colorado Springs where Luke worked for the Colorado Springs Police Department. Along with them, they have brought a Christian-based non-profit organization called Shield 616 which works to provide active shooter gear, as well as community support to local law enforcement officers.
The founder of Shield 616 is Nikki’s brother in law, International Falls native Jake Skifstad. Jake, along with Nikki’s husband Luke and their cousin Dan Lofgren (also from Int’l Falls), all worked for the Colorado Springs Police Department.
The idea started after Jake was responding to New Life Church on reports of an active shooter. As he arrived on scene, he noted patrol officers and SWAT officers setting up in position to secure the perimeter of the scene. The suspect was reported to have a rifle or shot gun. He realized that those patrol officers didn’t have the equipment necessary to protect them if they took on gun fire. He spent the next several years researching and setting up the foundations for the organization. The plan was to get the organization off the ground and running in early- to mid- 2016.
On November 27, 2015, Jake, Luke and Dan all responded to an active shooting scene at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Jake and Luke both took on gun fire as they were trying to reach the shooter. Thankfully neither of them were hit. Three people were killed that day, including one police officer. Nine others were injured; four of them were police officers. 2015 was a year fraught with active shooting situations all across the country. The increase in mass shootings prompted Jake and the board of directors to begin sooner than anticipated. The need to get the gear into the hands of law enforcement officers was critical.
Following the Planned Parenthood shooting, Nikki and Luke were ready for a slower, more simplistic life. They missed their parents and wanted to be closer to them. Luke retired from CSPD and they moved back to International Falls in August 2016, along with their sons, Ben who is in 9th grade at Falls High School and Braden who is in 6th grade at West End Elementary. Both boys are hockey players, which has helped in transitioning them to life in Minnesota. Ben also joined the track team this spring, a new endeavor for him. They are loving life back home in northern Minnesota.
A little information on Shield 616 and their mission.
The significance of Shield 616 comes from Ephesians 6:16 – Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
As an industry standard, officers are provided with gear from their respective department that is only rated to protect against hand guns. The vests will not stop a shot from a rifle or shot gun. The gear provided by Shield 616 is specifically rated against long guns, thus providing further protection in active shooter situations. In most instances, a patrol officer is the first on scene in an active shooter situation, not a member of the SWAT team. Therefore, it is the patrol officer that greatly needs to Pictured back left to right: Jake Skifstad (Founder), Debbie and Kevin Skifstad, Mike Skifstad, and Luke Skifstad. Front: Lucy and Henry (Mike’s children). Nikki and Luke Skifstad with their son’s Ben and Braden have this equipment on hand. The vest can be put on over top of their current gear in less than 15 seconds, making it easy and manageable to put on, which is critical in active shooter situations.
Fundraising has begun in International Falls/Koochiching County as the sponsorship for each officer costs approximately $1,000. Normally this gear, if purchased separately at retail pricing, would cost roughly $2,200 however, Shield 616 receives the gear directly from the manufacturers at a discounted rate.
At this time, there are five Koochiching County Sheriff’s Deputies and three Int’l Falls Police Department officers who have been fully sponsored and there are roughly 16-18 more local officers that are still in need of sponsorship.
Shield 616 also affords those in the community to show positive support and encouragement for their local officers. In this time of such negative portrayal of the law enforcement profession, providing positive reinforcement to them is crucial. Many sponsors offer not only emotional support to their sponsored officer, but prayer support as well.
Donations can be made on the Shield website: www.shield616.com.