OUACHITA, Ark. – The Ouachita County Sheriff’s Office added a new addition to the force to help them fight crime and protect the public.
It’s not a human — or even a K-9 officer — it’s a drone.
Ouachita County Sheriff David Norwood said the department made the purchase about two months ago, after watching how useful one was during the Bearden tornado.
“To us it’s a tool. As long as it’s used that way,” said Sheriff Norwood. “To go out here and spy on the public, I don’t believe in that. “
He said the real test for the drone came on Tuesday, while authorities were serving a warrant.
“It is the first time we’ve ever used it on a search warrant,” said Sheriff Norwood.
Aerial video the drone took that day shows a house law enforcement were watching. Sheriff Norwood said he was behind the controls of the drone and the man they were looking for was known drug dealer Wesley Dixon.
“There’s no reason to run the search warrant if he wasn’t at home,” said Sheriff Norwood. “The home is located on a dead-end road. So, we flew it in to make sure that the vehicle and all was there, which it was.”
But he said the drone showed Dixon wasn’t alone. A man, Sheriff Norwood identifies as Josh Barner, walks to a truck. As he does, the sheriff pulls the drone back and higher into the sky.
When the drone turns around, the screen shakes.
“That’s when it’s shot,” said Sheriff Norwood.
He said a piece that protects the propeller fell off.
“Without the drone, we may not have known there was a man there with a gun,” said Sheriff Norwood.
About 5 minutes later, several law enforcement rush the house, arresting Dixon, Barner and a woman, Ambra McCarter.
The sheriff said all have been arrested on drug and theft charges.
The sheriff said the drone cost about $1,300.00 and would cost a few dollars to fix. Sheriff Norwood said the department purchased it to be their eye in the sky.
“We used it with a forestry, just a few days ago,’ said Sheriff Norwood. “We were able to see how big the forest fire was.”
And knows it will be used again.
“When we’ve got trees down from straight line winds, that one tree can block a road, we can use the drone to see where you can get down a road,” said Sheriff Norwood.
Sheriff Norwood is looking forward to using the drone to aid the public again.