State-of-the-art crimefighting tool pleases local law enforcement
By Ben Orcutt -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- With a state-of-the art armored vehicle at their disposal, Warren County Sheriff's Office officials say they have a tool that will enable them to resolve high-risk incidents safer and more quickly.
"Had we had this vehicle back during the Vincent Marshall thing where he was shooting up the neighborhood [on Durham Drive in 2005] and our deputies ended up in a a shootout with him, I mean it would have been far safer and we could have possibly avoided one of our deputies being shot," Lt. Kahle Magalis, commander of Warren County's special operations team, said Friday. "It hasn't been that long. It seems like we're responding to barricaded armed subjects on a more regular basis now than we ever have."
The armored vehicle can stop .50-caliber ammunition and is capable of detecting chemical, biological, radioactive and explosive material, Magalis said.
"There's an on-board camera system with nighttime capabilities, which obviously is a big deal when we're responding to something in low-light conditions," Magalis said. "There's an intercom system on it as well."
Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron said the armored vehicle, which was manufactured by Lenco Industries of Pittsfield, Mass., weighs 8 tons and has half-inch steel all the way around. It also has 40-inch military tires.
"It's big enough to go through a house if it had to," said Sgt. Roger Vorous, assistant commander for the special operations team.
McEathron said the Sheriff's Office received a $302,000 grant through the federal Department of Homeland Security and administered through Virginia's Department of Homeland Security to purchase the armored vehicle for $278,000. The remainder of the grant was used to purchase personal protective equipment for the 10-member team. The Sheriff's Office also is in the process of purchasing a license plate reader.
The armored vehicle has been deployed once on a search warrant operation, McEathron said.
"It's kind of like you get a call with [an] armed suspect or a barricaded-type suspect and you roll in there with a canine, the person hears a dog bark, it has a deterrence," McEathron said. "This vehicle is going to have a deterrence. It's going to have an impact. If somebody looks out and sees a Ford Crown Victoria sitting out there, they may not take you very seriously, but if they look out the window and see this thing sitting there, they're going to know you're serious."
The air-conditioned vehicle has three zoom-in cameras and 2 1/2-inch bulletproof glass.
A team can be assembled in 35-45 minutes and deployed anywhere in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, which was the purpose of Warren County receiving the grant, McEathron said.
The sheriff said that 14 of the armored vehicles were distributed across the state, with only three sheriff's offices -- Rockingham, Stafford and Warren counties -- receiving them.
"We're going to coordinate with the different jurisdictions here in the valley and set up training with them so they feel comfortable when we show up there [with] what piece of equipment they have," McEathron said, adding that a neighboring jurisdiction can either request the vehicle with an operator and an observer or the entire team.
"As far as I know this will be the first armored vehicle that's in the area," said Sgt. Jason Cornwell, an assistant tactical team leader for the Frederick County Sheriff's Office. "Probably within an hour or less we can have an armored vehicle to any serious situation [that] would require something like that."
Strasburg Police Chief Tim Sutherly also is pleased about being able to use the armored vehicle.
"Well of course any time you have a tool like that it's beneficial to everyone in the area, but hopefully we would never need it," Sutherly said. "But if an incident like that were to occur and we needed something like that readily, we would have it readily available."
The idea with the armored vehicle is to have an edge on the bad guys, according to McEathron.
"We're in a very dangerous business," McEathron said. "We're not interested in leveling the playing field. We're interested in having the high ground. When you go to a situation, you want to make sure you have the advantage, no matter what that situation is because it is a life-and-death situation for the men and women that are deployed."