‘It’s a way I could give back’: Former Waseca officer and wife donate tactical shield to SWAT team

Published 6:30 am Thursday, March 10, 2022

The former Waseca police officer who was shot in the head while responding to a call in January 2020 has donated equipment to better protect the four-county SWAT team in the event they encounter gunfire.

Arik Matson and his wife, Megan, on Wednesday met at the Law Enforcement Center in Albert Lea with SWAT team members from Freeborn, Steele, Waseca and Faribault counties to take photos with the new police tactical shield the couple donated. 

The shield, valued at over $5,700, is rifle-rated, meaning it can withstand rifle rounds, said Albert Lea Police Lt. Darin Palmer, commander of the SWAT team. 

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The team now has two of the shields after it purchased the first one at the end of last year. Palmer said their goal is to acquire one more so they can have one for each of its trucks, so that no matter where they go, the first truck at the scene will always have one. 

“When you’re going on a call out with known or potential gunfire, that added security is beneficial to the tactical portion and it’s good for the welfare, the mental, too, just knowing they actually have a physical barrier that will stop a round if they get shot at,” Palmer said.

The team’s old shields were from the late 1980s. 

“It was a way I could give back to protect my former brothers,” said Arik Matson, who served on the SWAT team for less than a year before his injury, which took him off the force.

Megan Matson said her husband started talking about getting something for the team during the riots in Minneapolis in May or June of 2020, in which the team was called to assist other law enforcement. 

Palmer said the shield will be beneficial to the team because it is easily able to be transported. 

He noted during the active shooter incident in fall 2020 at Shady Oaks apartments, the team used a tall rolling shield in the hallways, which was perfect for the setting. That, however, would not be able to be used on uneven surfaces and is much heavier. 

The new shields are easier able to be moved.

Palmer said 2020 was a difficult year for the team as two of its members were shot while in the line of duty — the first was Arik Matson and the second was the first officer to respond to the Shady Oaks shooting.

“I’m just glad you guys have it now,” Matson said. 

His wife said the shield was outfitted with a Matson Strong logo so that no matter where the team goes, her husband can always be a part of the team, even though he is not actively able to participate. 

Palmer said the team’s old shields from the 1980s will be phased out for training.