LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A drone was used by Los Angeles police for the first time ever during a more than nine-hour SWAT standoff last week.
At a news conference Tuesday, LAPD officials discussed the use of the drone during a barricade situation on Jan. 9 with an armed robbery suspect in the 300 block of Berendo Street in Koreatown.
The man was one of three suspects wanted in an armed robbery which had occurred at a convenience store in the 4900 block of Santa Monica Boulevard in East Hollywood on the night of Dec. 13. The two other suspects had been previously caught, police said. On Jan. 9, investigators learned that the third was likely holed up in a second-floor apartment on Berendo Street. After unsuccessfully trying to draw the man out, they surrounded the building and a standoff ensued.
Just prior to Tuesday’s news conference, the LAPD released an 11-minute video explaining the use of the drone during the incident. The standoff, which began before 5 a.m., dragged on into the afternoon. When SWAT members were unable to get the suspect out using negotiation and then tear gas, they decided to try using the drone to make sure he was not armed and waiting for officers.
Authorities deployed the drone, and determined that it was safe to enter the building, where they found the man hiding in an attic and took him into custody without further incident, LAPD Chief Michel Moore told reporters.
“Following its deployment, ultimately, those officers had to breach that door, had to go into that residence, and did find the suspect hiding in the attic,” Moore said. “And fortunately, were able to take him into custody without having to resort to other force.”
In October 2017, the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners, the civilian panel that oversees the department, approved a controversial drone pilot program.
The approval came despite opposition from activists who consider the technology a threat to civil liberties.
According to the guidelines approved by the board, drones are only to be used in a limited capacity, including high-risk tactical operations, barricaded armed suspect responses, hostage rescues, and situations involving threats of exposure to hazardous materials and the need to detect explosive devices.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)