Sheriff’s vehicle has many uses

Watch a video about 'MARV'

WOODSTOCK – A recent drug bust in Crystal Lake was fairly routine, as far as drug busts go.

Sheriff’s and Crystal Lake police teamed up to search 1049 Cedar Crest Drive about 5 a.m. June 5. They said they found 2 ounces of cocaine, 15 grams of marijuana, four marijuana plants, various drug packaging items – and body armor and two pellet guns that resembled more serious weapons.

Police arrested three brothers and were done in about an hour, Sheriff Keith Nygren said.

The incident was peaceful, but police were prepared in case it escalated to a stand-off or shootout. Besides their duty weapons, body armor, and personal communications equipment, they had an eight-wheel-drive armored vehicle resembling a tank nearby on standby.

“When you’re going to go kick a door in at a drug house and you think there may be guns there, you don’t mess around,” Nygren said.

Typically, MARV sits in front of houses or other buildings during high-risk drug searches or arrests to intimidate the suspects and provide back-up if police need it. It has an infrared night-vision system, a video system with zoom capabilities, and tires that can function after being shot.

Its armor, which can withstand small arms fire and rifle fire up to .50 caliber, would provide cover for officers in large open areas or after an injury. It sits high enough off the ground – three or four feet – that it could drive over a wounded person to act as shielding while authorities were still under fire, Nygren said.

Before using MARV, police calculate the risk involved in the plan and assign values to potential hazards they think they might encounter to determine if the armored vehicle should be used. Overall, MARV has been used about a dozen times in the past two years, Nygren said.

“It’s typically a high-risk situation where a gun is involved or shots have been fired,” Nygren said. “Or someone has come out and said ‘He has a gun.’”

MARV was used in December 2006 when a 35-year-old suicidal man barricaded himself inside an apartment in the 100 block of Arrowhead Drive in Algonquin. An initial call indicated the man had a weapon and a flammable substance, so Algonquin police called the county for backup about 7:30 a.m. and neighboring homes were evacuated. The man surrendered without incident at about 10:50 a.m.

It was called out in July 2006 to an eight-hour standoff caused when a McHenry man test-fired a gun in his backyard after a night of drinking and fell asleep as police surrounded his home. A single firearms charge against the man later was dropped.

More recently, MARV was driven up to an apartment building on Kane Avenue in McHenry about four hours into a standoff with a man whom police said had fired at least six rounds at an officer at about 5:30 p.m. in August 2007. Authorities ordered him to surrender over a loudspeaker.

They entered the apartment at 11:30 p.m. after seeing that the man was wounded over images from a robot with a camera. Authorities found the 48-year-old dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The sheriff’s department got the vehicle in 2004 as Army surplus and paid the $2,500 shipping costs, Nygren said. Then, officers received military training in Michigan on how to operate it.

“There are only two of them out of the hands of the military,” Nygren said. “I think one of them is in New Jersey, and the other one is here in McHenry County.”

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