It will stop a 50 caliber bullet, deploy a ten man SWAT team and is the single biggest purchase ever by law enforcement in Grand Junction but it didn't cost a dime because they used confiscated drug money to buy it.
Sheriff Hilkey says, "it's a great insurance policy and a great safety tool for our officers." The Mesa County Sheriff's Office and Grand Junction Police Department say the Bearcat is an unfortunate necessity.
"I personally in my career have been out on many a scene where an armed gunman is firing at officers or deputies and we have had to use a dump truck," says Chief Bill Gardner.
Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey says he can think of many situations where a vehicle like the Bearcat could have been used. "A person tried meth–amphetamine for the first time in their life and went completely nuts and started shooting at vehicles with a Chinese assault rifle."
Several law enforcement officers traveled to Massachusetts to train with the Bearcat before it arrived in Grand Junction. The Bearcat sits on a Ford F 550 chassis and has a twin turbo diesel engine. The Bearcat weighs about 18,000 pounds, sits a team of about 12, swat members say its like having body armor for the whole crew. but maybe the best part about it is that it didn't cost a dime.
Chief Bill Gardner says, "this was all the result of legal drug seizures, of drug money." The bearcat would have cost $225,000 dollars but now the money originally intended for drug dealers will now help fight against them.
"Unfortunately our drug task force and our community has experienced over the last few years an increasing number of confrontations with armed suspects primarily through drug enforcement," says Gardner.
The Mesa County Sheriff's office will house and maintain the vehicle, but it will be available to both agencies as well as throughout the Western Slope.
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