Fresno Police Department’s Air Support Supervisor, Sergeant Larry Hustedde is praising the agency’s new AEM external loudspeaker system that he believes saved lives in a high-speed chase in Fresno earlier this year.
On March 30, 2020 at approximately 3:00pm, officers were in pursuit of a murder suspect while Hustedde and Tactical Flight Officer John Swanson flew overhead. When then the suspect picked up speed, the officers pulled back, relying on the helicopter crew to monitor his movement. Without law enforcement in pursuit, the suspect continued to speed down city streets and through intersections at 80 MPH. “It is frustrating having a birds-eye-view when a perpetrator is approaching an intersection at high speeds and we can see unsuspecting civilians directly in harm’s way” explained Hustedde, “the suspect was approaching a red light and it was apparent he had no intention of slowing down.” Hustedde made a quick, life-saving decision: flying 500 feet (152 meters) above ground, he maneuvered the aircraft so that his loudspeaker array was pointed directly at the middle of the next major intersection and turned on his siren at full blast.
The EC-120 helicopter had recently undergone a loudspeaker system upgrade earlier in 2020, installing AEM’s LSS880, an industry-leading, 880-watt external loudspeaker system capable of delivering intelligible air-to-ground audio at distances of up over 6,500 feet (2,000 meters).
“Amazingly, it seemed to work” he recalled, “vehicles approaching their green light slowed or pulled over just before the suspect barreled through the intersection, narrowly missing a citizen’s car.” The airborne siren was raising drivers’ awareness that something was going on in the area; Hustedde was relieved knowing that the audible siren likely saved innocent lives. Soon after, the suspect entered a freeway and lost control, disabling the car. The driver and passenger surrendered without incident.
Joel Johnston, Director of Tac/Com and Airline Sales at EDMO Distributors Inc. worked closely with Fresno PD and AEM in the system upgrade and was proud to hear the positive result their work produced. “Most citizens, if they hear a siren, will slow their vehicle down and start checking their mirrors, especially if the siren is loud and close by” explained Johnston. “Hustedde made sure this was the case and it yielded the result he had hoped for. The intersection was clear when he needed it to be. Lives were saved.”
Less than two weeks later, another suspect drove through the same intersection while trying to evade police. Unfortunately, the officers did not have air support, and the suspect collided with an innocent civilian, killing them both.
Johnston concluded, “Municipalities should consider funding requests, focused donation programs or other creative revenue strategies to implement this low-cost, highly effective life-saving system. This is just one example of how an effective PA system like AEM’s LSS880 can enhance public safety efforts in high stakes missions”.