St. Pete Police unveil new SWAT vehicle

1:14 PM, Jul 31, 2012   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- January 24, 2011 is a day etched deep in the memories of St. Petersburg Police.

It was the day they lost two of their own during a deadly stand-off with a suspect who was hiding in the attic of his home.

That suspect shot and killed Sgt. Tom Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz and injured a US Marshal.

On that day, armored vehicles from Tampa Police and the feds assisted St. Petersburg Police as they took down the suspect who was killed while exchanging gunfire with police.

"We were very appreciative to the officers who lent their vehicles to us that day," said St. Petersburg Police Officer Jason Deary.

A review of that incident led to several changes within the department, including the purchase of new equipment for officers.

The BearCat (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck) was among the purchases to help officers better protect the community and themselves.

"Myself and Officer Durado were both friends and SWAT teammates with Officer Yaslowitz and we were friends with Sgt. Baitinger, so we're very thankful, we're kind of emotionally attached to this particular vehicle," said Officer Deary, as he sat at the wheel of the new BearCat.

Photo Gallery: St. Pete Police new SWAT vehicle

The 2012 BearCat  is able to withstand multiple hits by bullets and small explosions and will help bring responding officers closer to a scene so they can determine how to best react.

It could be used during a hostage situation or during a terror threat.

"There was certainly a lot of anticipation in getting this particular armored vehicle and we're very thankful we have it. It's kind of a breath of fresh air, sigh of relief that we have it," said Officer Deary.

In addition to the armored vehicle, police tell us they have also upgraded department issued handguns to include a light on the end, purchased new hand held ballistic shields, and have provided officers with bullet proof vests that can be worn over their uniforms. 

The $250,000 BearCat was not paid for with tax payer dollars, but with forfeiture money seized during drug busts and other criminal activity.

While we are only a few weeks away from the RNC, St. Petersburg Police say they did not purchase the BearCat for the RNC. The timing was coincidental. If it's needed, they will make the vehicle available.


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