On the evening of June 18, 2013 Union City Police took a report of a man that barricaded himself inside a residence with two other people. Authorities knew the situation was dangerous after they learned the suspect had access to a 12-guage shotgun inside the house.
Realizing that the situation could escalate, Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards deployed the activation of a special group of cross-commissioned police officers...the Canadian County Tactical Team.
After the suspect refused to come out, the team rammed the front door and took him into custody although he tried to resist, bringing the several-hour standoff to a safe end.
The incident is just one of many kinds of cases the Tactical Team works every year and Sheriff Edwards said they are a vital part of law enforcement in the county.
"They are a special operations team that can be called out anytime we see a need for tactical response," Edwards said. "Whenever we receive a call regarding a hostage situation or that someone has barricaded themselves we utilize this team. We also use this team when we are serving a warrant and we know the suspect could be armed and dangerous, just anything that is high-risk."
Dangerous and deadly crimes can take place anywhere in the county and members of the Canadian County Tactical Team work year-round, training for these kind of events.
On Wednesday, April 9 the Tactical Team had a unique opportunity to train at a vacant home in Mustang. The property was purchased by the Mustang School District to make way for future buildings and demolition of the home was scheduled.
Corporal Jonathan May, a detective with the Yukon Police Department, is the Team Leader for the Tactical Team.
"This gave us a unique training opportunity and allowed us to come here and to train on a house that no one lives in," May said. "We have some different drills we run at these training sessions, like explosive breaching, where we have controlled used of explosive to open doorways and then mechanical breaching, another way we make entry into houses."
May said his team also used the house for their simunition training, meaning members are equipped with high velocity rifles that shoot rounds of paint bullets.
"We use a Glock 17T and it fires a paint projectile," he said. "It runs just like a gun and it launches projectiles to simulate real gun runs. In our simulations, when guys make mistakes in training, they get shot. Although this is getting shot with paint, there is still a lot of sting with that. We are trying to train these guys how to flow through a house, dominate the house and apprehend a suspect. SWAT is a life-saving organization, it is not a life-taking organization."
The Tactical Team decided to use the Mustang house for training after they learned about it from some of their members.
"Some of our members from the Mustang Police Department got in contact with the school district about us using the house for training and we are very thankful to them for letting us use this," May said. "They have more houses that they have purchased that we hope we will have the chance to train on. Opportunities like this don’t come around too often for us to be able to do this. We don’t like tearing up citizens’ homes."
The Canadian County Tactical Team is made up of 24 cross-commissioned officers from law enforcement agencies such as Mustang, Yukon, El Reno and the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office. It has been established in Canadian County since 1999.
"We have 18 guys that are actual operators, ranging from snipers, breachers and assaulters," said May, who has been on the Tactical Team for seven years. "We also have three negotiators, two from the Mustang Police Department and one from the Sheriff’s Office. We also have two team-dedicated medics, one from county that is a reserve deputy and one from the Yukon Police Department."
May and his team work many different kinds of cases in the county.
"Lately, we have been working drug warrants in El Reno and we have had a couple of cases where subjects would barricade themselves inside a home and we would have to go in and get them out," he said. "Even Oklahoma City called us one time to assist them with a murder suspect who they believed was in a house in El Reno and we had to serve a warrant on him. We average about one call a month and when the call is made, our members are notified and we all meet at a specified police department before we go out on the call."
Those on the team have to meet certain criteria.
"In order to be on the team, you have to be at your department for at least two years," May said. "Then you go through a tryout, which includes a physical fitness test and conduct a shooting drill. To be on the team, you really have to be on your game with your firearm and be above-average when it comes to shooting. Once they are on the team for a year, they are trained just like a rookie officer and they can be dismissed at any time if they do not meet the standards of the team."
Lieutenant Kirk Dickerson of the Mustang Police Department is the Tactical Team Commander and has been on the team since 1999.
"This team is very helpful to the county because it has the resources that are not normally available to a police department," Dickerson said. "These guys are on call 24/7, 365 days a year."
As Commander, Dickerson said he receives the call from police departments requesting the Tactical Team’s services.
"When the Sheriff or another department head decides that a specific case is exhausting too many of their resources, they call me and I talk to them about the situation," Dickerson said. "I write up a operations plan and the team members are contacted and we meet at a specified location for briefing before we go out."
Over the years of being on the team, Dickerson said the Tactical Team has worked countless cases.
"This team would not be possible without the corporation of all the department heads who provide the funds, manpower and equipment," Dickerson said.
"The guys that join our team don’t do it for any kind of accolades, but because they know there is a need for it and that the county has entrusted in them for the skills they possess."