Garfield County All-Hazards beats Front Range teams at national SWAT competition |

Garfield County All-Hazards beats Front Range teams at national SWAT competition

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent file

GARFIELD COUNTY, Colorado – The county’s All-Hazards Response Team beat seven Colorado teams in the 2008 U.S. National SWAT Championships in May. The AHRT placed 15th out of 30 national and international teams overall. The team did its best in an officer rescue scenario and took second place in that event. It beat the overall scores of teams from the Denver Police Department, Castle Rock, Broomfield and the Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

The only Colorado team that did better was the Aurora Police Department, taking eighth place overall.Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said the team beat an impressive group of competitors.”As chairman of the All-Hazards Response Team, I’m very proud of the dedication and commitment every member of this team invests for the safety and security of its communities,” he said in a news release. “The citizens of Garfield County have the very best right here at home.”The competition, near Denver, uses live-fire SWAT scenarios and relays to test individual and team skills in the areas of team organization, weapons skills and fitness. It’s run by Advanced SWAT Training and Competition, a Colorado company specializing in law enforcement training.

John S. O’Connor II, Ph.D. and vice president of the organization, wrote a letter to county commissioners praising the team.”I can report to you and your community that your officers performed well in a very difficult challenge,” he wrote. “Even though this was their first competitive event, they were highly skilled, fit and added much to the competition. … We were so impressed with these men that we wanted to take time to inform you personally of the great respect we have for them.”In a phone interview, O’Connor said, “I know the people of Garfield County have no idea how lucky they are to have men like that.”He said he’s been in the business for 17 years and knows many of the 3,500 or so SWAT teams in the US.”Ninety-nine percent of the teams are really a cut below your team,” he said, adding that most teams are on call for law enforcement issues, but don’t have the ability to respond to other hazards like medical problems and hazardous materials.

O’Connor said it’s very impressive a team in its first year of competition from “podunk” Western Slope towns could hold its own with teams from places like Dallas that have 10 times as much staff, funding and experience.The team formed in 2005 after eight months of preparation and training. It has around 17 members from local law enforcement agencies and receives funding through the Homeland Security Department.Perhaps the highest profile incident the team faced was the Dec. 11, 2005, arrest of Samuel Lincoln at the Budget Host Motel in Glenwood after an 18-day manhunt. Authorities discovered his location and the AHRT surrounded the motel and successfully took him down with less-lethal sponge rounds as he walked outside. Police said they found two handguns on him plus two rifles, a shotgun and dynamite in his motel room.Lincoln, then a meth user and the most wanted fugitive on the Western Slope, faces a 332-year prison sentence. He’s been convicted of shooting at Mesa County deputies, nearly shooting a man to death in the desert outside Grand Junction and robbing and stabbing a man in a trailer in West Glenwood Springs.

In April, Vallario and Undersheriff Colt Cornelius told county commissioners they planned to buy a Lenco Industries BearCat for the AHRT. It’s a $236,000 armored vehicle that carries 10 at a time and stands alone in offering law enforcement .50-caliber protection. The company’s website says the tactical armored security vehicle is used for law enforcement and military operations like close-quarter battle engagements, citizen rescue and delivery missions. The vehicle has gun-ports and a roof hatch with a rotating turret, among other features.It’s been ordered and is expected to arrive this fall.Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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