By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – If the unthinkable happens in Lafayette County – a shooting situation develops, for instance, or a young child goes missing – law enforcement officers will have a new way to respond.
The Mississippi Office of Homeland Security has awarded the Lafayette County Sheriff Department a $75,000 grant to buy a “rapid response vehicle” – a heavy-duty truck that can carry 15 officers and their gear.
“It will be for the purpose of transporting officers, especially SWAT officers,” said David Shaw, the county’s emergency management coordinator. “Rather than 15 guys coming up in 15 different vehicles, it lets them come in one vehicle to be deployed.”
Once on the scene, the vehicle can be set up as a headquarters for operations from search-and-rescue to hostage negotiation.
“It will be equipped with radios and all the equipment they need,” Shaw said. “It’ll have benches around the perimeter and a removable table in the center for meetings.” Being climate-controlled, it would also be a place for exhausted officers to escape from the elements for short respites.
One recent situation in which such a vehicle would have been deployed had it been available is last September’s shooting in the Grand Oaks neighborhood.
In it, Bilethon Autry, a former mental patient, shot and killed his brother, Danny Ray Hodges, and held their father and housekeeper hostage until a combined SWAT team from the Lafayette County Sheriff Department and Oxford Police Department entered the home and took the suspect into custody.
Scott Mills, senior investigator for the Sheriff Department, said the vehicle will also be available to other agencies if needed.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.