High tension meets high tech
Expert law enforcement officers take risks to handle critical situations
|Sgt. Joe Lambourn of the Oakland County Special Response Team and Lapeer County Sheriff Ron Kalanquin utilize surveillance camera mounted on top of Oakland’s mobile command vehicle to watch as last Wednesday’s barricaded gunman incident on Rule Rd. unfolds. The team’s fleet also included a tank-like personnel carrier, armored truck and various command vehicles. photo by Maria Brown.|
March 26, 2008IMLAY TWP. — Members of the Oakland County Special Response Team wished last week's barricaded gunman situation had a different outcome, but regardless, they were ready for anything.
The team, a division of the Oakland County Sheriff's Department, is a highly-trained group of police officers who respond to 'critical' situations such as high risk warrant arrests, drug raids, civil disturbances and barricaded gunmen, like the Rule Rd. incident last Wednesday.
Dan Livingston, 36, held police at bay for more than eight hours before shooting himself in the abdomen around 10:30 a.m. on March 19. He died later that day.
"We made it here in less than an hour," Sgt. Joe Lambourn of the SRT said while monitoring the situation from one of their mobile command unit trucks on the scene.
Lambourn, driver Sherry Prose, Lapeer County Sheriff Ron Kalanquin and Undersheriff Bob Rapson were glued to a tv monitor watching the team's armored personnel carrier, called the Dragoon, approach the shed at the dead end of Rule Rd. where Livingston had been holed up.
Later, Commander Lt. Tim Atkins decribed how the standoff ended.
Negotiators and a friend had been communicating with Livingston, allegedly distraught over a domestic argument, for several hours with a 'throw phone.'
The modified phone lets two parties talk and is always 'on' so police can listen in to what the subject may say or do. Atkins said the idea is to limit movement of the subject by providing a limited amount of phone cord.
"Eventually he threw it out (of the shed). He broke it," Atkins said of Livingston.
Atkins said the team was prepared to "wait him out," but took action soon after hearing a single gun shot.
"We had to confirm he had done harm to himself, and make sure this wasn't an ambush," Atkins said.
First, the team sent in their robot, equipped with a camera.
"There were a couple of obstacles and we weren't able to locate him," Atkins said.
"Then we used a pull camera to peek in the windows and we still couldn't get a visible of him inside," Atkins said.
That's when officers, crouched behind the small tank-like Dragoon, approached the shed and saw Livingston laying in the back corner of the structure. The Dragoon can carry up to eight officers, is equipped with the latest surveillance equipment and probably, most importantly, is bullet-proof.
Watching all of this unfold from a nearby field of tall grass were members of the unit's scout sniper team.
All of the equipment in the SRT's fleet was purchased with drug forfeiture funds, Atkins pointed out.
"We are very grateful for the mutual aid provided by the Oakland County Sheriff's Department," Kalanquin said.
"I know the deputies feel remorse that it ended in that manner."
This is the second time in a little more than a year, the SRT has responded to a domestic incident with barricaded gunmen in Lapeer County, both in the otherwise quiet countryside along Rule Rd.
In January 2007, the team was called to the Country Pride Lane home of Dr. Kurt and Amber Henkel, only a dozen yards away from where last week's incident unfolded. A heavily-armed Kurt Henkel, a veterinarian, held his wife hostage in their basement. Atkins, who was also present at that incident, said the team was limited in what equipment they could use because of their location in the basement but did manage to position their robot at the top of the stairs.
Eventually, Henkel released his then wife and later surrendered peacefully to police. In February, he pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful imprisonment and was sentenced to 29 months to 15 years in prison.
Officers on the scene of the Livingston standoff said it was possible Livingston would not have been charged with any crime had he lived, except for a possible count of possession of a firearm while intoxicated, which is a misdemeanor.