The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has added a heavy-duty “tool” to its crime-fighting arsenal.
The department recently acquired a surplus Mamba armored vehicle through the U.S. Department of Defense.
The newly restored 12,000-pound armored carrier which can seat 11 people, will be used mainly by the department’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) when it is called out for certain operations, said Maj. Mike Copeland, chief deputy.
Having an armored vehicle on hand can be invaluable for law enforcement in certain situations, he noted.
“We have had several incidents over the years involving armed individuals,” Copeland remarked. One incident occurred several years ago when an armed man barricaded himself inside a home in New Haven and initiated a gun battle with police. One deputy was wounded in the shootout and other deputies and emergency personnel were placed in harm’s way attempting to remove the wounded officer. The gunman later shot and killed himself.
“There are occasions when you need that protection to get in close to a threat,” Copeland said.
While the Missouri Highway Patrol and St. Charles County have similar armored carriers, they are more than an hour away from Franklin County which is a long time in an emergency.
“When you need something like that, you need it now,” Copeland said.
“This is another plus we’ll have for us and for other local agencies,” he added.
Copeland said he had been trying to obtain a surplus armored carrier for five or six years. Last fall he was notified by the DOD that several of the vehicles were available for law enforcement agencies.
He went to an Army depot in northern California last October where he inspected a number of the vehicles before selecting the unit now in the county.
“We had the opportunity to obtain this at a minimal cost,” Copeland said.
The Mamba armored vehicles are manufactured by a company in South Africa and used by a number of countries and United Nations forces, Copeland explained. The Mamba acquired by the sheriff’s office saw action in Afghanistan before being retired.
The chief cost of getting the new vehicle was having it trucked from California to Franklin County, but Copeland said he negotiated a good price for that.
Over several months, several local companies have provided labor and materials to bring the vehicle back into service.
“It’s been a concerted effort,” said Lt. Steve Elliott, ERT commander. ERT members spent a lot of hours cleaning up the vehicle and performing maintenance, he said.
American Mechanical in Eureka performed maintenance on the air-conditioning system to get it back in shape, he noted. The company owners, Mike and Sue Smith, live in Franklin County, Elliott said.
Fifth & Oak Autocrafts and Countywide Collision donated materials and labor to do body work and paint the vehicle.
And staff and students at Linn State Technical College fabricated some parts for the vehicle that could not be purchased locally, Copeland explained.
“It’s just another add-on to our equipment,” Copeland remarked. “Hopefully we won’t need it, but, unfortunately, we have needed it in recent incidents.”