Sheriff's office gets armored vehicle
by Kellen Short
Originally built for the U.S. Air Force, the 8,500-pound vehicle features Cadloy steel armor on a four-wheel-drive truck frame, with bulletproof glass, gun ports, winch and bullhorn system.
The best part? It was free.
The federal government most recently issued the vehicle as surplus to the High Point Police Department. When High Point police bought a new, upgraded armored vehicle, they called the Watauga County Sheriff's Office to offer to transfer the Peacekeeper, Sheriff Len Hagaman said.
Hagaman said he was originally a little skeptical, wondering whether the vehicle would be in usable condition. He was pleasantly surprised.
"It's probably one of the most pristine ones from the surplus that I've seen. They've really kept it up well," Hagaman said. "It's still not pretty, and you certainly wouldn't want to take it on a long trip."
Major Kenneth Shultz of the High Point Police Department said the vehicle had been at their department for close to 20 years.
Maintenance workers in High Point worked on the engine and did welding work on the vehicle, he said. They also added a hydraulic ram with a lift, capable of breaking down barricaded doors.
While High Point police completed plenty of training with the vehicle and drove it to between 10 and 25 calls per year, they can't vouch firsthand for its resilience to gunfire.
"We never actually took any hits in it," Shultz said.
Where the Peacekeeper is heavy on muscle, it's sparse on creature comforts. No air conditioning. No floor mats. No cupholders.
It features rusty metal floorboards and shattered glass on one side where the vehicle caught a bullet in a previous life. A tag inside the vehicle says it was rebuilt at the Kovatch Truck Center in Pennsylvania in March 1991.
"It's not a luxury vehicle by any stretch of the imagination," Hagaman said. "It's pretty basic."
But he said he thinks it will do the job for the Watauga County Sheriff's Office, which has never owned an armored vehicle.
Deputies could use the vehicle in future high-risk situations, such as approaching a barricaded suspect or to rescue an injured officer or victim, he said.
"We hope we don't have to, but there's been some situations where we could've used something, either for cover or for protection of the officers to negotiate," Hagaman said.
He said the vehicle also would be available for all law enforcement agencies in the county to use. Hagaman said he thought the closest armored vehicle was located in Lenoir.
The sheriff's office hauled the vehicle from High Point a couple of weeks ago. County maintenance staff installed a new hydraulic line and changed the oil, but any other future fixes would likely be cosmetic, Hagaman said.
It now sits in the sheriff's office parking lot, waiting for a day when it might be used again.
"It was a very nice gesture on the city of High Point's part," Hagaman said. "I'm glad they thought of us."