A pair of men who fled from a minor traffic stop ended up on foot in a marshy area in Medina County, at night in temperatures below freezing with nowhere to go.
The two men refused to pull over during a traffic stop attempt around midnight Jan. 15, after their vehicle was identified as being owned by a suspended driver. Brunswick Township Police Officer Zachary Getto assisted the Medina County Sheriff's Office in apprehending the two after police used stop spikes on the road and the two suspects ran from vehicle.
Video from the chase and the subsequent arrests, including infrared drone footage, were obtained by Beacon Journal partner News 5 Cleveland.
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Brunswick Hills Township Police Chief Tim Sopkovich said it's the first time the department has deployed the drone since obtaining it late last year.
"This past November, we were able to squirrel away some funds, nickels and dimes, and come up with several thousand dollars and we purchased a new drone, with all the latest and greatest gadgets on it," Sopkovich said. "The thermal camera is the most expensive part of it."
Sopkovich said Getto obtained his commercial drone pilot license and began training with the Mavic 3 soon after its purchase.
"Depending on the temperature, he can get over an hour of flight time on it," the chief said.
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The two men who fled had been signaled to stop by a Medina County deputy on I-71 northbound near Seville and continued to head north. Getto was responding when the men reversed course and headed south, eventually bailing out of the car around mile marker 203 in the southwest corner of the county after deputies deployed spike strips on the highway.
Getto got out the drone and sent it up in the air, circling his location to make sure the men were not lurking nearby.
"He then sent it way up and just kind of slowly zoomed around and then he was able to see the bright hot heat source and he located the individuals, was able to radio communicate to the other responding officers to go into that area," he said. "For officers' safety, he was able to lower that drone to right above their heads," Sopkovich said.
In addition to the infrared camera, the drone also has a loudspeaker and lights to illuminate the scene below.
Responding officers detained the suspects. The driver, who was not the owner of the car, is charged with a felony count of fleeing and eluding, Sopkovich said.
He noted the department has another drone that can be used indoors. The machine is able to fly under furniture and through rooms.
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"This incident ended very good. No officers were hurt. The bad guys weren't hurt. They weren't familiar with that area. They ran off I-71. They started running out into the middle of this swamp, it was 14 degrees, they had no shoes, and they're running around in waist-height swamp water."
He said the two suspects could have died of hypothermia, had they continued to flee.
"They're safe, and I think that's the whole goal of all this."
Eric Marotta can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarottaEric.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Brunswick Hills Township drone tracks suspects into freezing swamp