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Case Study: How Armored Vehicles Prepared the San Juan Regional Response Team for an Officer-Involved Shootout
Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content,
San Juan, Texas is typically a relaxed and quiet community, but a day in late July changed everything in this city. On Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at around 4:30 in the afternoon, a specialized law enforcement team was sent out to serve a high-risk warrant to a capital murder suspect. This team included members from various precincts and jurisdictions, including Edinburg and La Joya police departments, Hidalgo County sheriff’s office and Texas DPS. As they closed in on the suspect at the intersection of Ninth Street and Leo Street in La Joya, the intent to serve the warrant and arrest the suspect quickly turned into an active shooter situation. The suspect evaded arrest, which transformed the team’s task into an officer-involved shooting.
Communication was quickly relayed to nearby local, county, state and federal officers, who all rushed to the scene. More than 200 officers (including seven SWAT teams) responded, along with five different armored rescue vehicles, also known as armored personal carriers (APCs). The motivation in using the armored vehicles was to provide relief and to transport SWAT teams into the crisis site, where two officers had been shot and nine others were pinned in a gunfight. The three primary SWAT teams who were in charge of leading the armored vehicles to the location were the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, Mission SWAT and San Juan’s LEERRT (Law Enforcement Emergency Regional Response Team). They were all flanked by BORTAC, DPS Ranger Recon, Edinburg and Pharr police department SWAT teams and BORSTAR.
The types of armored vehicles included one BATT (Ballistic Armored Tactical Transport) from The Armored Group, two MRAPs, and three other unidentified types of APCs. During an interview with Juan Gonzales, Chief of Police in San Juan, he indicated that the SWAT teams utilizing these vehicles had three clear objectives:
- Rescue pinned officers
- Secure the neighborhood
- Neutralize the suspect
SWAT units, which include police and sheriff’s officers who are specially trained in advanced tactics and equipment, were first deployed in Los Angeles in the mid- to late-1960s to assist in curbing riots and gang violence. Here they served a similar task, although it was a single individual who was causing upset within the community.
The APCs proved to be a distraction to the suspect, and he ended up firing more than 200 rounds at the vehicles, striking two with over 50 rounds. The BATT’s ability to maneuver through the trapped emergency vehicles helped prevent further injuries and fatalities to the officers involved. If the APCs failed to deliver back-up to these trapped officers, the incident could have had an entirely different outcome. Unlike the highly publicized Missouri officer-involved shooting of early August, this suspect was well-trained and capable of causing further harm; it was clear that his mission was to kill as many people as possible.
Other than the presence of armored vehicles in the community, this type of serious situation required more than three hours of strategic negotiations and tactical operations. During the negotiations, the suspect informed SWAT teams of multiple shooters. Gonzales said “the suspect threatened the SWAT teams that he had two armed bodyguards with him, as well as that he himself was armed with grenades and had booby trapped the front door of where he was with grenades to keep law enforcement at bay.” The tactical operation at this time involved an armored vehicle to threaten the facility the suspect had confined himself within. Gonzales noted that “The BATT was the most important asset on scene because it was used as a rescue vehicle and finally was used to conduct our final breach on the structure.” This provided an opportunity for the SWAT teams to regain control moments after, and Gonzales’s report indicates that the suspect “eventually confronted the SWAT teams and was subsequently neutralized.”
To summarize, one suspect created an extremely dangerous situation that most communities may not be prepared for, which involved over 200 police officers from various departments, SWAT teams and tactical organizations, as well as utilizing seven different armored vehicles. Thankfully, San Juan was ready for this type of situation due to the creation of the LEERRT program back in 2010. The specific training that this group provides to nearby communities’ SWAT teams includes simulated events using armored vehicles, to show how they can be used to control situations and obtain a healthy end result.
If you would like to learn more about armored vehicles, such as the BATT, and how they can work for your law enforcement agency, please contact The Armored Group via their web site
Photo via The Armored Group