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Armored vehicle helping officers save lives

By Scott Haws | Posted - Apr. 21, 2009 at 10:05 p.m.


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UTAH COUNTY -- Thanks to a Utah County company, police officers have a new crime fighting tool for the most tense situations. It's a bullet-proof beast that's designed to do one thing: save lives.

This is not just a model or prototype. In the last month it's been used five times, including a standoff Sunday night in Santaquin.

ASRV, or Active Shooter Response Vehicle, is more than just a fancy acronym. Everything about the van is designed to get law enforcement in to an active scene and get it resolved as quickly as possible. If anyone is injured, the van can save their life and it can protect lives at the same time.

The van is built to be out on patrol so officers can deal with dangerous crimes in progress and dominate the incident from a secured mobile fortress without losing precious time. OCTI donated the first van to the Utah County Sheriff's Office, now Salt Lake City police are looking at adding some FISTs, as they're called, to their fleet.

"There are several situations that it could be deployed. I mean, just on a daily basis, you never know when you're going to get somebody who's armed with a gun," said Salt Lake City police Lt. Issac Atencio.

The FIST is the brainchild of OCTI president Dave Acosta, a former police officer and SWAT point man who now specializes in international protective services.

"We have to have something that levels the playing field for our officers," Acosta said.

He says the FIST changes the way police respond to situations, like the shooting 10 years ago at Columbine High. Then, 45 minutes passed before police entered the school.

***Advantages of the FIST:***- Daily use; designed for continuous use by patrol officers - Breach and enters standard double door system - Ballistic recovery and evacuation booth - Ballistic Skirt; provides protection from ricochets and under vehicle shots - Armored Roof capable of stopping 7.62mm - Pneumatic gun ports - External voice communication - Cost - Highly Competitive

Just two and a half weeks ago three Pittsburgh police officers bled to death because police couldn't take down a gunman and get to their injured men.

"This is not a SWAT vehicle, the point of this is to give patrol officers who are responding first a tool to allow them to get right inside and on top of a situation and take control immediately," Acosta said.

The van is a retrofitted Ford 350 and is 100 percent bulletproof. Another advantage over other armored vehicles is its smaller dimensions. It's built to break through standard double doors you find at most public buildings so officers can safely be inserted in to the heart of a crisis and yet it can cruise at 75 miles an hour, fit for daily patrols.

The price tag sits at around $200,000. OCTI says its van is already on Homeland Security's list of approved vehicles, and has received calls from the federal government looking at using the van to patrol our country's borders.

E-mail: shaws@ksl.com

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Scott Haws

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