Fresno County Sheriff’s Office wins national award for air unit response

Local News

FRESNO COUNTY, California (KSEE/KGPE) – At first glance it may look like a video game, but it’s actually infrared video from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Air Support Unit during a car chase.

Video show a birdseye view of the moment they spotted a stolen car in Reedley. The driver, 32-year-old Ronald Patala, was followed for several miles.

When requesting backup, that includes the sheriff’s air support crew.

“It was around midnight, we were about 15 miles away when we first got the call and we were able to put our camera on the pursuit from that distance,” says Sgt. Richard Coningsby with the sheriff’s office.

Patala refusing to pull over led them on a chase to Selma. Video shows him driving recklessly through an orchard of orange trees while the the air crew tracked his every turn.

“Take a right right there, and he’s right in the middle there,” he explained.

The pursuit lasted a little more than 20 minutes.

Video shows the moment deputies, police, and a K-9 officer took Patala into custody. He’s now serving a four year prison sentence.

Tactical flight officer Coningsby was on the air crew guiding the boots on the ground with the help of the FLIR camera. FLIR stands for Forward Looking Infrared Radar.

“We have a camera that’s capable of watching the pursuit from a long distance away where the person in the stolen car does not know we’re there, we’re undetectable,” Coningsby says.

Now they’ve won the 2019 FLIR Pursuit Award from the company that makes the camera.

He says they look at how the technology enhanced their ability to do their job. “In law enforcement, aviation is a small community so we do know people throughout the whole nation, and it’s nice to be recognized.”

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