Mahoning Valley law enforcement reflect on shootout in Philadelp - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Mahoning Valley law enforcement reflect on shootout in Philadelphia

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AP Photo/Matt Rourke AP Photo/Matt Rourke
MAHONING COUNTY, Ohio -

We're learning more about the suspect in Philadelphia who wounded six police officers attempting to serve a drug warrant. 

In the nearly eight-hour-long gun battle, news cameras captured the neighborhood covered with police.  Since that time, we now know that the suspect, Maurice Hill, has a lengthy criminal history and fired more than 100 rounds.

The 36-year-old surrendered shortly after midnight.  The officers injured have been treated and released from the hospital. 

Serving drug warrants is a police operation and tactic in crime-fighting that officers use routinely.

But at any given moment, that mission can be anything but routine.

21 News talked to several local law enforcement officers, who explained that a police operation, even with all the best planning, can quickly become unpredictable.

In 911 tapes released from the Philadelphia shootout, you hear an officer make a desperate call for help, "Give me SWAT "ASAP."  Long guns "ASAP."

Six officers were shot and wounded.  

Two officers and three others were trapped for hours but eventually escaped.

Law enforcement here at home says scenes like this, unfortunately, can play out anywhere, at any time, and they have.

Youngstown Police Detective-Sergeant John Elberty, who is also Commander of the Mahoning Valley Crisis Response or SWAT Team, says, "I think the issue is you don't know who is inside until you go inside."

Mahoning Valley SWAT Commander John Elberty was shot in the chest back in 1999 inside a Youngstown home. His bulletproof vest saved him.  The suspect was shot and killed.  

Commander Elberty says serving a warrant is something that can go south very quickly. "For tactical teams and police in general -- it's probably the most dangerous mission that we do," he said.

Sergeant Mike Hughes, the Commander of the Boardman Police Narcotic Enforcement Unit, says that's precisely why new precautions are taken before raids in the township.

"We have what we call an OP Plan. We do an operation briefing. We try to get as much information as we can before we do the search warrant, and we bring two paramedics with us when we do our warrants," Sergeant Hughes said.

There's a program across the country called TEMS, for Tactical Emergency Medics Support, according to Sergeant Hughes.  It's paramedics who are trained for a tactical environment, and in Boardman, two firefighters, who are paramedics, have the TEMS training, so they accompany Boardman drug agents on warrants.

Larry McLaughlin, the Commander of the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force, which includes the Drug Task Force, says, "We've definitely changed a lot of our tactics.  We've slowed down, we do more site surveys, and we try to be prepared because at the end of the day we want to go home."

Officers also say more training, which includes 30 days every year, plus better equipment can be life-saving.

Commander Elberty says, "It's intense, but you don't really know it is at that moment.  When you have the training, it's almost like being on autopilot."

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