It is rare for law enforcement units in the United States to deploy marksmen in helicopters. Very few SWAT officers actually have the training needed to shoot rifles from mobile positions. But that’s what’s happening now in Los Angeles. The LAPD took out a burglary suspect from a helicopter Tuesday, marking their first use of this tactic.
[Scroll Down for Video]
The incident occurred in Sunland, California. A man broke into a home and took a woman hostage. She managed to escape, but the man did not. He stayed in the house, which was surrounded by police.
The unidentified 29-year-old stayed holed up inside the house and reportedly exchanged gunfire with officers outside.
Chief Charlie Beck held a press conference after the incident had been resolved and said it was clear that the suspect had been hit by gunfire from the helicopter, but that officers on the ground may have also had positive hits.
The decision to use the helicopter was reportedly made by an assistant chief who recognized the advantage it would give in the rocky terrain.
“When the geography and the circumstances dictate, we want to make sure that it’s available. That’s exactly what happened in this instance,” Beck said.
“It requires very specific criteria that have to be met regarding terrain, regarding weather, regarding the threat to the community, regarding the other options that have been utilized,” the chief told his civilian bosses. “It appears that those criteria were met. Obviously there will be further review of this to ensure that.”
Beck described the limitations posed by the “very difficult location” of the house. The man inside a distinct advantage. “The suspect definitely had high ground at all of the ground officers, was firing indiscriminately at them — and actually fired at the helicopter, we believe,” he noted.
Business Insider reported that the stand-off lasted hours, and police finally shot tear gas in to flush him out. When he emerged, and didn’t surrender, he was shot. He then rolled down a ravine.
This is certainly a tool in the LAPD’s arsenal that will gain notoriety. The images of the SWAT officers hanging off the side of the helicopter are going viral. Clearly there was at least one other helicopter above the one belonging to the LAPD, and that’s how we’ve gotten these images.