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SWAT vehicle repairs show scope of Longview standoff damage

By Sarah Thomas sthomas@news-journal.com
July 17, 2013 at 11 p.m.


Damage to an armored vehicle used as a rolling shield during a standoff this spring in a Longview neighborhood provides a glimpse of the danger law officers faced that day.

The tactical vehicle, known by the brand name Lenco BearCat, took about 30 rounds during a May 9 firefight with Candace Jackson, a former registered nurse who holed up for hours in her Eden Drive home. She was shot to death by tactical officers when she emerged with a weapon from her tear gas-filled home.

Though none of the rounds penetrated the armor plate, the vehicle is pocked with gunshots - some of which weakened the vehicle's heavy windshield glass. Pockmarks on and around the vehicle's top turret indicate the officer in the turret was targeted.

The extent of the damage has come to light as specialized repairs are being made to the vehicle this week.

"One of the primary uses of the truck (during the standoff) was to safely evacuate neighbors that were in danger," said Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano. "That was one of the reasons it was struck so many times, because it was moving around the area."

The BearCat was hit in the front, rear and left sides, and the top turret was hit where the hatch was opened. Its dual windshields, each weighing 180 pounds, also were hit.

Cerliano said none of the rounds penetrated the BearCat's armor, but they weakened its 2.6-inch thick windshield glass, which is being replaced.

The vehicle is owned by Gregg County and used by Gregg County sheriff's officers, along with Longview and Kilgore police officers as part of a multi-agency SWAT team.

Repairs are estimated to cost nearly $7,000. The county is paying a $1,000 insurance deductible.

Cerliano said repairs could wind up costing more than the original estimate because of the need for specialized, military-grade paint and primer required to get the BearCat back to factory specifications.

The damage tally makes clear the reality of what happened that spring day in Northeast Longview, where Jackson was said to be stockpiling weapons and supplies in preparation for the end of times.

According to reports from the Longview Police Department, Jackson had access to a .308-caliber rifle, an AR15 semi-automatic rifle, two 9mm handguns and a .22-caliber handgun. It remains unclear which she was firing during the standoff.

Though the vehicle's windshields were compromised, Cerliano said it was never out of commission.

"It didn't prevent us from using it," he said. "We took that into consideration when tactically deploying the vehicle to ensure the safety of the officers."

The windshield repairs - at $4,531 - account for the bulk of the repair bill, including $696 for installation at Moose Auto Glass in Tyler.

The remaining costs are to repair the dents and chipped paint caused by the rounds hitting the vehicle's exterior.

"We chose (Moose Auto Glass) because Tyler Police Department has a BearCat that was shot up in a standoff outside of Athens in Henderson County, and Moose fixed it," Cerliano said. "They had the experience and the equipment to replace the glass."

The vehicle is scheduled soon go to a Longview garage where the remaining body work will be performed.

"It may take several days to work on it, but we'll make arrangements with the body shop to keep that time at a minimum," Cerliano said. "It will be out of commission for a short period of time, but we will prepare for that if needed."

The BearCat was purchased in 2008 for $240,000 through a 100 percent grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

The standoff and shooting was investigated by Longview police and Texas Rangers. In late June, the Gregg County grand jury cleared a Longview Police officer involved in the shooting.

Gregg County District Attorney Carl Dorrough said no other charges are likely to be filed in the standoff.

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