The first drone-assisted arrest has occurred in America after three armed men, sons of farmer Rodney Brossart, were tracked down by the police after Brossart was accused of stealing six cows.
The incident originally occurred in June 2011, but Brossart was only sentenced earlier this year. He will serve six months of a three year sentence for ‘terrorizing police officers’.
Police were called to Brossart’s farm in North Dakota after he refused to return six cows that had wandered on to his property from a neighbouring ranch. Police were called and Brossart was arrested, but an armed stand-off developed between a Swat team and the farmer’s three sons, reports Forbes.
In order to avoid a lengthy man-hunt across the 3,600 property a Predator drone borrowed from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) was called in to locate the men. They were then apprehended by local a police.
Although Brossart was found not guilty of stealing the cows, surveillance footage taken by the drone was used as evidence against him and his sons. He was found guilty of terrorizing police and his sons pled guilty to charges of menacing law enforcement officers.
Brossart’s attorney attempted to have the evidence collected by the drone dismissed as it was conducted without a warrant, but US legislation is unclear on exactly when aerial surveillance demands this form of authorization.
Records obtained by the civil liberties group the Electronic Frontier Foundation has found that the CBP has hired out Predator drones to other American law enforcement agencies more than 700 times between 2012 and 2012.
They also noted that this particular model of drone is equipped with the sophisticated Vader surveillance system (Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar) which was developed for use in Afghanistan against insurgents.
US District Judge Joel Medd, who sentenced Brossart, defended the use of drones in the case but noted that it "should have never happened.”
“Chalk it up to stubbornness, to stupidity, to being at odds with your neighbors or any combination of those,” he said. “We should never have been here if the cows would have just been returned.”
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