New fire equipment helps Lancaster police find suspect

October 15, 2003|PHIL PENDLETON

LANCASTER - When police couldn't locate burglary suspect Bobby Hall Saturday night after he allegedly jumped a guardrail on U.S. 27 and ran into a wooded area, they called the Lancaster Fire Department for help.

The department responded with the recently purchased thermal imaging unit, a camera-like device that detects heat, and in the case Saturday night, body heat.

The unit found Hall hiding behind an outbuilding on Beechwood Drive.

It can see a person's hands and arms, and whether a gun is being held, said Fire Chief Ken Adams.

The Lancaster City Council approved Adams' request to buy the unit at the Aug. 4 meeting.

It cost $7,800, but Lancaster will only have to pay $3,900 because it received a federal grant, Adams said.

At the Sept. 8 meeting, Adams demonstrated the device for council members in the garage area in the rear of city hall.

Adams sent a person to the back of the garage and then turned out the lights, leaving the room pitch black. He held up the unit and the person was clearly seen in the unit's viewfinder.


"It seeks anything with heat, " said Adams. "You can find hot spots behind walls (when firefighting)," he said.

The unit, which is hand-held and about the size of a bullhorn, was made in Cynthiana. Saturday night was the first time it was used in Lancaster and Adams said it was his intent for the equipment to be used by all agencies, not just the fire department.

Meantime, Hall, 34, pleaded not guilty to charges of burglary third-degree, theft by unlawful taking more than $300, unlawful transaction with a minor, fleeing or evading police, and two counts of criminal mischief second degree.

A preliminary hearing was set for 9 a.m. Monday in Garrard District Court. Hall and a juvenile are accused of breaking into an outside freezer at Dairy Queen sometime after the business closed Oct. 1.

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