FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office has only had its drone fleet for about a year but officials said it has been crucial to keeping deputies and the public safe, especially this week during a shootout that left one man dead.
Fresno County Sheriff’s deputies say Roberto Jose Gamez led deputies on a pursuit, crashed his car and then started firing at deputies on Wednesday afternoon.
“One of the best things we had was the utilization of our drone,” said Fresno County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Tony Botti.
The sheriff’s office said during the standoff, deputies got their drone 30 feet from the suspect, with the camera watching his every move.
It is not clear what Gamez’s cause of death was, but once the drone determined he was no longer moving, law enforcement went in.
“That allowed our deputies to actually approach the vehicle,” said Botti. “So, it is just a huge officer safety factor that we now have in this day and age.”
Citizens cannot be a part of the sheriff’s done fleet, only deputies can. There are seven deputies a part of the team who had to undergo monthly training to receive their license.
The fleet has five drones with different capabilities including night and thermal vision, a spotlight and high-quality video.
“We are finding out in the past year that we have had them that there are a lot of uses for them,” said Fresno County Sheriff Sgt. Scott Weishaar.
The deputies can also use the drone to call out a message via the speaker.
“You can tell them to set their gun on the ground or walk out with their hands up,” said Weishaar. “And once they are near the deputies, those deputies can take over.”
Other situations the drone is used for include mapping of crime scenes including illegal marijuana grows and search and rescue missions.