TacSight Aids ERU Response to Uncertain Situation

Lexington, Kentucky - At 9:30 p.m., on Feb. 3, patrol officers with the Lexington Police Department responded to a call from a three-apartment residence in an inner city neighborhood. Neighbors who lived in the other two apartments within the structure had heard two people arguing in the second-floor apartment, followed by several shots, then silence. Officers knocked on the door, yelling to the suspect, and they didn't get a response. Considering the unknown nature of the scenario, they set up a perimeter and called in the Emergency Response Unit.

When the ERU arrived, one of the members used a bullhorn from the outside, with no response. They then set up a ladder at an open window of the suspect's apartment. Under sniper cover, Lt. Rodney Sherrod took the Bullard TacSight up the ladder and reached it in front of the window, with the display turned off (via the TacSwitch). Unit commander Asst. Chief Kevin Sutton used a handheld Mobile Link wireless receiver to monitor the transmitted TacSight imagery from the ground. The information he gathered about the layout of the residence helped him guide ERU members in the next step of the search.

"We are still learning with the unit, so it took me a little time to understand everything I was seeing," Asst. Chief Sutton said. "I could see the layout of the room, so I knew where the team would need to look when they entered. When I didn't see an image of a person, the entry team was able to enter the apartment and set up a secure location to operate from. "

Two teams of five entered the ground floor of the house and climbed the stairs to enter the second floor apartment from the inside, using ballistic shields as cover. Lt. Sherrod, who was lined up third in the first stack, used the thermal imager to scan each room prior to entry.

"Instead of making a dynamic entry, the TacSight allowed the team to move into the first room fairly secure, then move through the house methodically," Asst. Chief Sutton recounted. "They used it to scan and secure their position as they moved from room to room."

After the main area of the house was secured, officers pulled the attic ladder. Lt. Sherrod reached the thermal imager into the attic, using a methodical approach to scan 360 degrees of the room, without actually entering it. Again, the transmitted imagery was monitored from below, via the handheld Mobile Link receiver. Ultimately, officers did not find the shooter.

ERU Coordinator Officer Pike Spraggins explained how the response would have been handled if a thermal imager hadn't been available. "Before entering, our normal procedure would have been to spend two hours with the bullhorn," he explained. "Then, we would have beaten on the door. And if we still hadn't received a response, we would have had two alternatives. First, we could have breached the apartment, not knowing what to expect. Or we would have used chemical munitions to drive the suspect out."

Spraggins says the TacSight allowed the Lexington Police ERU to manage the incident less expensively and with less risk to officers. "We didn't have to use any assets, and since the team was able to confirm the suspect was not in the rooms they were entering, it made the situation safer to enter," he said. "When we had completed our search, the other tenants could return to their apartments, with no property damaged."

Tactical Tips

The Lexington ERU competed in the 2005 World SWAT Challenge, placing seventh in this competition that has been called the Superbowl of law enforcement. The response to this incident befits the expertise of a world class team. Officers set up their response, guided by standard operating procedures and tactics, then reached into their toolbox to select the right complement of tools for this operation. The team's use of thermal imaging demonstrates a firm understanding of the technology and a commitment to technical training that paid off in this scenario.

Light beams would have been a dead giveaway to a bad guy that the ERU was moving through the apartment. The team used the TacSight to inspect areas prior to entry, which enabled silent, unannounced movement. Positioning the thermal imager third in the stack allowed the first two officers to work the shield and cover fire should something go awry. The use of thermal imaging to enhance officer safety is the primary benefit here; however, secondarily, the savings in costs of manpower, chemical munitions and damage to the apartment building cannot go unnoticed.

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