RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The Richland County Sheriff's Department is crediting its thermal imaging drone for successfully capturing a homicide suspect after he fled the scene.
On Wednesday, deputies responded to the 1400 block of Brazell Road just after 5:30 p.m. for a report of shots fired. Upon arrival, deputies found two victims and were able to get a description of the suspect and which direction he fled in.
Adam Paul Legrand was killed in the shooting. A second victim was taken to the hospital. According to deputies, the suspect, later identified as 21-year-old Kenneth Shirley, fled into a thickly-wooded area near the scene. Shirley began firing at deputies who did not return fire.
Due to the limited line of sight, the department deployed its thermal imaging drone.
"We use it to scan the area and because the suspect was in a thickly-wooded area, we used it to locate where he was," Corp. Marcus Kim said. "Our K9 units did a great job tracking toward the suspect and once they got close, we were able to see the suspect thanks to the drone."
The department first unveiled its drone program in 2010, using a helicopter rigged with camera equipment. Since then, Kim said it has evolved to a Flir drone, which the department has had for the last year and a half.
"We use it a lot in active situations," he said. "So if there's a hostage situation, or a possible missing person, or something like what happened in Elgin the other night, those are the times we're using it."
Kim said having eyes in the sky can help keep deputies on the ground safe in dangerous situations.
"We can see hot spots where there's a potential threat, so we can advise the people on the ground that there might be a hotspot or potential threat in a certain area," he said.
In drone video released by the department, you can see a small white figure moving toward deputies. That white dot, according to the department, is homicide suspect Kenneth Shirley.
"We found where he was and as you watch, you can see him slowly approaching deputies and K9 officers shortly before he is taken into custody," Kim said.
Kim said the department has utilized the drone three times in the last week.