The Summit County Sheriff’s Office has a new armored vehicle, and it had a big first week |

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office has a new armored vehicle, and it had a big first week

The Summit County Sheriff's Office acquired an armored rescue vehicle for free through a federal program that supplies local law enforcement agencies with surplus military equipment.
Jack Queen / |

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office’s new armored rescue vehicle made a dramatic debut on Saturday at the scene of a six-hour standoff with an armed man barricaded in a Wildernest residence.

The incident, which occurred just days after the vehicle was put into service, ended after the armed man, Justin King, surrendered and was arrested.

On Tuesday, the 8,600-pound machine was back in service as the main attraction at an open house for the Law Enforcement Explorer program, an extracurricular course designed to introduce students to policing careers.

The program — which includes ride-alongs, trainings and a host of other activities — has been mothballed for several years but is now returning in force. More than two-dozen students attended Tuesday’s meeting to hear about the Explorer program, which is run as a partnership with the Boy Scouts of America.

“This great turnout is testament to the community’s desire to have our youth exposed to leadership and a strong belief in the men and women of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and our other law enforcement partners to provide that,” Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said.

Law Enforcement Explorer is open to all local students, and they can stay in the program until they’re 21 years old. So far, 22 students have been enrolled, but deputy Wanda Wilkerson said that the program will continue accepting more.

“I’m so excited, it just seems like it’s going to be a really successful program,” she said. “We have a record number of students signed up, and we weren’t expecting that many in a community this size.”

On Tuesday evening, police and sheriff’s deputies who had gone through the program themselves shared their experiences. One common theme that might be particularly appealing to parents: It’s a great way to stay out of trouble.

“I was part of the program around when it came to an end, so it’s really exciting for me to see it starting back up again,” deputy Stephanie Snyder told the students. “Back then I was sitting in your seat, and one day you could be sitting in mine.”

Midway through the presentation, students got a chance to climb inside the rescue vehicle, which the Sheriff’s Office acquired for free by applying to the 1033 military surplus program, FitzSimons said.

It was previously held by the Fountain Police Department, which deployed it during the 2015 mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. There, the vehicle came under fire, although one bullet mark in the bulletproof windshield is the only sign that remains.

“I’d wanted to acquire an armored vehicle for some time,” FitzSimons said. “The environment of the world is changing, and more and more citizens need to be rescued in these kinds of vehicles.”

The Sheriff’s Office took possession of the vehicle last December, but it needed some extensive refurbishing. Luckily, FitzSimons said, the county road and bridge department offered its welding expertise to further toughen it up.

It was finally ready to go last week and within days it was called upon to respond to the Wildernest standoff. FitzSimons said it was key to keeping SWAT operators safe by allowing them to reach the door protected by armor rather than approaching on foot.

“If we didn’t have that armored vehicle, their next best cover would have been behind a bunch of 6-inch aspen trees,” he said. “But this allowed them to pull right up to the suspect’s door with no pressure to use force.”

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