In the past, this suspect had been able to evade ground
reconnaissance teams, but on this day law enforcement was watching. He could
run, but he could not hide.
Five “stash houses” were identified as various storage
and distribution facilities in Virginia. The case agent was able to take the information
garnered during this support mission and acquire the search/arrest warrant.
With the warrant issued, VACDTF held on standby at an
airport near the targeted area.
Tick Tock. The LEAs wait for a call—a call projected to
launch the follow on arrest operation. Tick Tock.
Buzz buzz. The phone fractures the silence. The mission is
Now, it is up to the aircrew to coordinate with multiple
ground teams staged at various locations. Communication with accurate details
is early and often. Situational awareness among the LEAs must be maintained.
The LEA ground teams move out. While following commands
and directions from the aircrew, the ground teams (from a safe distance) are able
to identify and track the primary suspects’ arrival to the “stash house.” Upon
entering the “stash house” to complete his cocaine transaction, HSI and VSPTF
members get the call to execute the arrest.
The LEA aboard the UH72A Lakota monitors the situation for
escaping suspects and video/audio records the event for evidence.
By the end of the transaction, one major suspect had been
arrested, multiple vehicles, five kilos of cocaine, and $65,000 in currency had
been seized, and the LEAs had discovered several leads to investigate for
future potential arrests.
“It was flawless execution by all assets,” Menoher said.
As it turns out, the primary suspect was previously
involved in an attempted capital murder investigation in another state.
The operation spanned several days with different
aircrews swapping in and out to maintain continuous operations.
“The entire operation simply would not have happened
without the reconnaissance and overhead cover provided by the Virginia
Counterdrug Task Force aircraft,” an HSI case agent said.
This particular reconnaissance and overhead cover mission
would not have taken place had the Virginia National Guard Counterdrug criminal
analyst assigned to HSI not shared the National Guard Counterdrug aviation
capabilities with the case manager.
After the case manager learned about Counterdrug
aviation, a capabilities brief took place and the mission was on. The aviation
support grew to mutual coordination between air and ground assets and a battle
hand-over between U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the National Guard air
“The confidence the LEAs had in Virginia Counterdrug aviation
capabilities was evident when Virginia Counterdrug aviation flew the aerial
support and coordinated communications during the final take-down,” Virginia Army
National Guard Lt. Col. William Taylor, Virginia Counterdrug Coordinator, said.
As the investigation continues, the primary suspect will
no longer be able to run or be able to hide because he is now “hidden” in plain