Jefferson County’s MRAP being used more than ever

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 2:49 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - In the wake of last week’s shooting on Pillar Point, Jefferson County’s sheriff says he’d like to add another armored vehicle to his department’s fleet. We’re talking about the MRAP, which is being used more now than ever before.

It’s built to withstand explosions and repel bullets. It’s the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. The MRAP.

“The way society has raised the stakes with mass shootings across the country...It’s a tool that has to be part of law enforcement’s toolbox from this point forward,” said Sheriff Peter Barnett.

Jefferson County’s MRAP has been deployed four times so far this year - more than the last eight years combined.

The sheriff says the vehicle was “invaluable” last week when police had to dodge a hail of gunfire during a standoff on Pillar Point.

The MRAP took at least three bullets. A sticker marks where one of them hit. The deputies inside were safe.

“I could have used additional armored vehicles,” said Barnett. “We need to protect the people and thank God we have the MRAP to do that right now.”

There’s also damage to the front of the vehicle. That happened when officials used the MRAP to stop the tractor the alleged shooter was driving.

“We really had no other way to stop him and basically we disabled his tractor by using the front of the MRAP,” said Deputy Randy Bachmeyer. “We were able to flatten one of his tires just through vehicle contact.”

Bachmeyer is a member of the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team, or SERT. He was instrumental in helping the sheriff’s office acquire the MRAP for free from Fort Drum’s military surplus in 2013.

The sheriff’s office had to add a few things to the MRAP including lights, sirens and a PA system. The PA system comes in handy in an armed standoff, especially when officials can’t get a hold of the suspect inside.

The MRAP transports members of SERT to emergencies that can range from high-risk drug raids to mass shootings.

“The purpose of it basically is to try and get our SERT team as close as possible for an incident safely without being struck by gunfire,” said Bachmeyer.

Officials say the MRAP is used defensively, not offensively.

When the vehicle was first acquired, many worried about the militarization of local police agencies.

After last week’s standoff, Sergeant Ben Timerman posted a photo of the MRAP with the mangled tractor on Facebook. He wrote: “Why do the police need an MRAP? This is why.”

His post concluded, “Without a doubt, the MRAP saved lives.”

“It’s obviously gotten a lot of attention and for the most part has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Timerman.

Whether you think the vehicle has a place in police departments or not, the sheriff’s office says its MRAP will continue to protect and serve.