Vargas: Friday’s shootout fourth recent example of armored police vehicles saving lives


Friday night the Anaheim Police Department was faced with a perilous situation. An armed robbery suspect was cornered in a large parking lot full of cars.

The desperate and fleeing robbers had crashed their getaway vehicle near a Fry’s electronics store.

A CHP officer detained one suspect.

Having no place to run the second suspect holed up inside a parked SUV.

Officers surrounded the area at a safe distance, and the SWAT team responded.

The big issue for police: How do you safely approach an armed and desperate criminal to try and negotiate without putting officers at great risk?

You roll out an armored vehicle.

The same vehicles that politicians and law enforcement detractors don’t like because they are too “militarized” – whatever that means because I’m still not sure. It has no mounted weapons and its sole purpose is to protect the public and police officers.

I watched the live news coverage. The armored vehicle enabled officers to approach the barricaded suspect safely. The suspect got out of the vehicle a few times and walked around as if he was trying to scope the area out.

Negotiators were able to speak directly to the suspect, trying to convince him to give up. Apparently it was not effective. It looked like they attempted to gas him out. That didn’t work either.

At some point the desperate individual made the last of what were many bad decisions that day. He decided to shoot it out with officers. From the safety of the cover provided by a “BearCat” the officers were able to return fire. Regrettably he did not survive. Not the best outcome. But the suspect’s actions dictated the response.

Last night’s drama was just one of four in the past month where armored vehicles were deployed to protect police officers – and the public – from armed and dangerous suspects.

On Aug. 18, an armored vehicle protected officers from man with a modified assault rifle. Gunfire from the suspect’s high-powered weapon struck the BearCat. Even with the protection of the vehicle, an officer was shot in a calf sustaining serious injuries.

On Aug. 26 Anaheim police officers used an armored vehicle to safely detain a barricaded suicidal man. The guy was armed with a handgun. He was immobilized long enough with tear gas to allow officers to approach and detain him for a mental health evaluation.

On Sept. 14 San Bernardino Police responded to a call of a gunman who shot at an ice cream truck. During the ensuing barricade the suspect fired, hitting SBPD’s armored vehicle. No officers were injured.

These are just a few of the incidents I am aware of locally in the span of the past few weeks. As politicians debate this so called “militarization” of policing in America I suggest they take a hard look at incidents like these that occur across the country everyday.

These tools represent the modernization of policing in response to the increasingly dangerous situations and suspects they face.

This is about the safety of citizens and the protection of officers. Even OSHA requires employers to provide personal protective equipment against known hazards and ensure that the equipment is used. Maybe we should see what OSHA thinks?

Apparently politicians and detractors are more concerned about jumping on a bandwagon of “militarization” and less concerned about the safety and protection of their communities and the men and women who willingly put themselves in harms way.

Contact Joe at