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12-18-2007, 04:48 PM
SWAT team trains in Englewood

A vacant home on Cherokee Street provided the perfect setting for training exercises Monday carried out by the Sarasota County Sheriff's SWAT team.

ENGLEWOOD -- The idyllic tranquility of Cherokee Street was shattered Monday morning as members of the Sarasota County Sheriff's SWAT team suddenly stormed into a vacant home.

After a few moments they quickly and quietly regrouped outside and abruptly invaded the home again.

Then they broke for lunch.

"Today we're working on a variety of exercises," said Lt. Kevin McElyea, a leader of the Strategic Weapons And Tactics team, during the break. "Dealing with barricaded subjects inside a residence, people who have arrest warrants or suspects who refuse to come out of houses."

Techniques, planning and coordinating were operative words of the day as SWAT members executed a variety of methods to quickly enter and secure the house. After each training exercise, members then took turns playing the bad guys -- lurking around corners and hiding inside closets -- as the next group focused on the most efficient ways to safely enter the building and subdue them.

"Right now we're working on the tactics of particular room searches," McElyea said, quickly squashing any notion that the activity might have the glamor of a TV cop show.

"In reality, it's tedious and sometimes slow work," he added. "We need to get the tactic correct, get the communications between team members correct, get the positioning of personnel around the residence correct. It's a long, drawn-out process sometimes to fine tune it."

Inside the home, a video recorder caught all the action so after the event SWAT members could gather around a monitor and review what they did right -- along with what they did wrong.

Sgt. Marc Pezzella, team trainer, offered praise and helpful criticism to the members after each exercise, pointing out which tactics worked and which potentially life-saving efforts could have been performed better.

"Each situation is different," Pezzella told his team. "Tactics that work great in one building may not work at all in another. And today you guys are lucky. There's no furniture here for the bad guys to hide behind."

You can e-mail Steven J. Smith at ssmith@sun-herald.com.


Staff Writer