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News Release

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Media Relations

Small Unmanned Aerial System Used During Barricade Incident NR19007ma

Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Police Department's Metropolitan Division, Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) utilized a small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) for the first time, during a barricade incident involving a robbery suspect.

In July of 2018, a pilot program began that would allow the Department to use these devices with the hopes of de-escalating dangerous situations while enhancing our commitment to the preservation of life. The sUAS would be used in limited circumstances, under strict guidelines that consider community concerns and privacy interests. For accountability, the device would be used only by a team of officers with specific training, and with prior approval from a Command Staff Officer (commander or above), as well as the Commanding Officer of Counter Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau.

On December 13th, 2018 around 9:40 p.m., three suspects were involved in the armed robbery of a convenience store in the 4900 block of Santa Monica Boulevard. During the robbery, two of the suspects entered the location, one armed with a firearm, and demanded that the clerk open the register. The suspects took money from the register and fled in a car where the third suspect was waiting. Through the course of the investigation, Northeast Area detectives identified the suspects involved in the Robbery. Two of the suspects were arrested by detectives, but the third suspect was not captured. The search for the third suspect continued into January of this year.

On January 9th of this year, SWAT officers encountered one of those unique circumstances where officers hoped the use of this tool would allow officers to take a suspect into custody without force. Around 5:45 a.m., Metropolitan Division police officers who were in the area looking for the third suspect, went to an apartment in the 300 block of North Berendo Street. They knocked on the door and a female came out of the apartment to meet them. She closed and locked the door behind her.

The officers and detectives at the scene were utilizing investigative techniques which led them to have a strong belief that the suspect was still inside the apartment. Because of the suspect's refusal to exit and believing the suspect could be armed with a firearm, SWAT was requested to the location, around 8:30 a.m.

The stand-off with the suspect lasted approximately nine hours. During that time, LAPD's specialized sUAS pilot (SWAT officer), used the aircraft to find the suspect who was hiding in a second-floor apartment. During that time, SWAT utilized various types of communication strategies, tear gas, and ultimately the sUAS. This was the first time a sUAS was used since the approval of the pilot program. In this incident, the sUAS was used after the tear gas was ineffective in flushing out the suspect. The sUAS was flown outside of the windows of the suspect's apartment but the suspect was not seen with the sUAS. After several hours, the suspect who had been hiding in the attic space of his apartment, was located and taken into custody by officers, without any further incident.

During the operation of the sUAS, video footage was captured by the sUAS. The LAPD is making that video footage available to the public as a commitment to transparency and constitutional policing. The ability to use a sUAS in certain situations is an important tool for SWAT, and allows officers to gather critical information that can mitigate high risk situations.

The LAPD continues to seek methods for keeping its communities and its officers safe, while enhancing public trust and confidence. If you are interested in reading the entire policy to learn more about how the Department deploys sUAS and the restrictions of their use visit