Santa Ana police SWAT training reaches new heights

SANTA ANA –  A Huey briefly hovered, Wednesday, Nov. 9 above the roof of an eight-story Orange County Sheriff’s Department building on Flower Street and then lightly touched down.

Five Santa Ana Police Department SWAT officers, with assault rifles, jumped out of the helicopter and raced toward a man in a gray T-shirt who had his hands above his head. The officers quickly hustled the pretend suspect away into a stairwell.

Such practice drills helped sharpen the skills of SWAT team members who could face an active-shooter scenario.

“We train so we don’t have issues when the time comes,” Santa Ana Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. “Too many bad things can happen (without proper practice).”

The Sheriff’s Department, which has a contract to supply air support for Santa Ana police, provided the helicopter that shuttled SWAT members, about 30 in all, from Centennial Park’s soccer field to the top of the building.

In an actual active-shooter situation, the Sheriff’s Department would add armed paramedics to the choppers.

“The armed medics are there not only to keep (victims) safe, they also provide (medical) aid,” said Sgt. William Fitzgerald, who supervises the Sheriff’s Department’s Aviation Support Unit.

As part of the exercise, SWAT officers also practiced getting in and out of helicopters with police dogs while wearing tactical gear, and they honed their  repelling skills from the top of a closed, multi-story Nordstrom store at MainPlace Mall.

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