PORT CLINTON, Ohio (WJW) – On Jan. 18, Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers and Ottawa County deputies were dispatched to the intersection of Ohio Route 2 and Tettau Road in Erie Township where a car left the road and collided with a utility pole.
At the scene, they found the badly-damaged car and utility pole with lines dangling over Route 2, the car continuing through a fence into a cemetery where several headstones had been damaged.
But the driver was gone, running from the scene on foot.
“We had been out looking for a couple hours for him,” said Ottawa County Sheriff Stephen Levorchick. “Right after it got daylight out, we got a phone call from a resident who was about a mile away from the crash scene. They had let their dogs out and they had seen someone run from their barn.”
They reached out for assistance from Port Clinton police, where they recently purchased a drone with thermal imaging.
“This was the first time that we were absolutely able to go out and use the imaging,” said Port Clinton Police Public Information Officer Mike Kilburn.
Levorchick says a detective believed he saw the suspect in the heavily wooded area so authorities surrounded the area and with the help of the sheriff’s office K-9s pursued him.
“We still have a wooded area, we don’t know if the person is armed or not we don’t know what their mental state is at that time,” said Levorchick.
The drone was deployed and, using the thermal imaging, quickly identified the suspect and was able to follow him as he ran through the woods with the deputies in pursuit.
Levorchick says a trooper saw him and so the suspect turned to run the other direction, where the deputies with a K-9 were able to finally catch up.
“That person gave up, put their hands up and laid down, and as that dog arrived at his side and was just ready to apprehend him, sergeant called him off and told him to lay down,” said Levorchick.
The entire sequence was captured on the drone’s cameras (as seen in the video at the top of the story).
The sheriff says the video shows the flawless encounter with a 24-year-old man from North Olmsted who was experiencing a mental crisis at the time.
He was arrested and faces four misdemeanor charges along with an additional felony charge of obstructing official business.
For local law enforcement, the incident is one that demonstrates the value of the department’s investment, using drones, which can be more quickly deployed and at far less cost than using a helicopter for the same purpose.
Port Clinton Police Chief David Scott says the new tool is one that can be used in numerous scenarios, including helping to find an elderly person who may have wandered away and is missing.
A similar drone was used by the Norton Police Department during a massive fire in Kent to give command staff a good aerial look at the scene and to help identify hot spots.
Levorchick says he can use the footage as a tool for training purposes and to see the actions of both the deputies and their K-9s in the field, which in this case he described as “perfect.”