MARION COUNTY, Fla. – The Marion County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit gave News 6 a closer look at the technology deputies used to track down the man accused of shooting a Eustis police officer last month.
The Dec. 19 shooting sparked a massive manhunt that lasted for hours and ended when Jayson Colvin was shot and killed in a wooded area by authorities. Colvin was previously convicted of crimes including armed burglary, kidnapping and possession of a gun by a convicted felon, records show.
Lt. Don Standridge, with the MCSO Aviation Unit, said they were called in to assist in the search for Colvin.
“Our mission, our goal every single day is to assist patrol in any way that we can,” he said. “We’re a force multiplier. That’s what it boils down to.”
The MCSO helicopter helped law enforcement on the ground find Colvin. Investigators said he was in a wooded area hiding under a canoe near a lake. Deputies on the ground couldn’t see him.
Standridge’s pilots found him using an advanced camera with infrared technology that is outfitted on the helicopter.
"The heat emanating from under a canoe and from that video they're watching him, watching him, see him stick his head out and they identify exactly where he is," Standridge said.
Standridge said the cameras give deputies on the ground eyes in the sky and there is nowhere criminals can hide.
“What it does is it gives us an incredibly clear, crisp, clean both day image as well as infrared image from higher altitudes,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office installed the cameras on three of its aircraft two years ago. Each camera costs $500,000.
Pilots can map out streets, pinpoint locations, and provide crucial information to deputies on the ground.
"They're not walking in as blind as they could have been," Standridge said.
Standridge said his pilots are on call day and night, ready to fly at a moment’s notice.
Standridge said it serves as an extra tool for the Sheriff’s Office and is getting crime results.
“We’re catching bad guys or finding lost people that may not have been found,” he said.