Chula Vista Drone Program is Saving Lives

16 February 2020 | Disaster Response, Specialized FAA Waivers

San Diego Tribune February, 2020

CHULA VISTA —  Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy told a story recently about how officers avoided tragedy while responding to a 911 call about a man waving a small gun around in front of a taco shop on Broadway.

The first thing the department did was send a drone. It arrived in less than a minute and before any patrol vehicles got to the scene.

From a camera attached to that drone, an officer at police headquarters more than a half-mile away from the taco shop could see the man and what appeared to be a small handgun. He told responding officers on the ground exactly what was going on in real time.

The man sat on a bench outside the shop and appeared to be talking to himself while waving what looked like a gun in the air.

“He actually took the gun to his mouth,” Kennedy told the City Council earlier this month. “And the drone operator is thinking, ‘oh my gosh, is this man going to commit suicide right in front of me?’ He puts the gun to his mouth, picks up a cigarette, lights it and blows smoke.” The man didn’t have a gun. It was a lighter that happened to be shaped like one.

With that information, responding officers calmly walked to the man and arrested him, without incident, on suspicion of using meth, said Capt. Vern Sallee, who oversees the drone program.