LIGONIER — “Without this technology, we might not have caught him that day,” Ligonier Police Chief and Public Safety Director Bryan Shearer said.
The Ligonier Police Department only had this particular drone to capture their suspect for four days before it came in handy. Ligonier Police Officer Brandon Stout, a certified drone pilot, received the drone July 3.
By Sunday, at 3:52 p.m., it proved its worth.
Officer Jerod Bechtold spotted a car with an expired license plate parked at Speedway in Ligonier at the intersection of S.R. 5, U.S. 6 and U.S. 33. According to Stout, he was able to run the plate and learned something interesting.
“I found out that the plate came back to a completely different vehicle,” Stout said. “We were kind of waiting for that car to pull out. He pulled out, took off and got way ahead of us.”
The driver of the vehicle, Michael Maskow, drove onto a driveway off of U.S. 33 south of Ligonier. According to Stout, he got out of the car and started running.
“When we pulled in, we saw the driver bail out of the car and saw the driver run around some of the out buildings to the home toward the wooded area,” Stout said.
The K-9 officer was called and came to the scene, but the efforts were unsuccessful to locate the suspect. But, this did help them learn where the suspect could be, which was the next home to the south of the original property, so they created a perimeter. This is when Stout used the drone.
The area where Maskow ran to was bordered by Engle Lake. So Stout used the thermal imaging camera to find Maskow over the wooded areas and the field near the residence. Stout was able to locate Maskow and direct the police officers where to go to find him.
“He was hiding in a swampy area on the east side of the wooded area,” Stout said. “He was hiding in 10-foot tall sawgrass and cattails. So the two officers that had to go in there said it was thick. From the drone, I could see them clearing the grass with each step they took.”
The officers were a couple of feet away from Maskow, and they were still not able to see him, according to Stout.
“They nearly stepped on him when they found him,” Stout said.
Stout has only been certified to work with drones about a month when this arrest occurred. He has used a drone three times so far: the instance on Sunday, for a car crash and to assist the Kendallville Police Department search for suspects in a robbery Tuesday.
Maskow was arrested on charges of possession of methamphetamine, a Level 4 felony; being a habitual traffic offender, a Level 6 felony; auto theft, a Level 6 felony; and resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor. Maskow was held without bond. Maskow will also be charged for the monetary value for two officer’s uniforms who pursued him because they were destroyed.
The Noble County Sherriff’s Department and Indiana State Police assisted in the arrest.
Shearer said it was great to see the drone used so quickly.
“It’s good to see our equipment that we purchase and provide for our guys to do their job actually work,” Shearer said. “…We’ve had a couple successful uses of the drone. And we’ve assisted just like last night in Kendallville. It’s not just a tool for Ligonier law enforcement, but it’s also a tool for surrounding areas.”
He expects to get more calls from different communities asking for assistance since the Ligonier Police Department now has two certified drone pilots.
Shearer added that without this technology, the department may not have seen Maskow to arrest him. The department arrested him without incident.