SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) - From helping with chases and shootouts to tracking down pot farms deep in the forest, New Mexico State Police have one weapon the bad guys can't match: their helicopter.
Those real-life missions take a lot of practice missions, and KRQE News 13 now has gotten an inside look at how it all works.
Take a suspect running from police as an officer catches up.
"We didn't know who he was," explained Sgt. Victor Gallegos with the State Police Tactical Team. "We did know he was considered armed and dangerous and that he had fired shots at officers."
It's a call the tactical team has dealt with before. On Wednesday it was a training mission.
As the armed suspect ran into an open field, the responding officer called in air support.
"You have one officer. It becomes an officer safety issue for him to just take off chasing after him," Gallegos said.
A K-9 unit was deployed to help the team sniff out the suspect's path. The tactical team mapped out their mission using their chopper, Able-6, as their eyes in the air for missions across the state.
"I think safety is always at the top of the list for us," Gallegos continued. "We want to do things effectively and see a good outcome, but the No. 1 priority is safety."
They're training for real-life missions. In one case Able 6 helped the team on the ground locate a suspect that suspect tried to hide from officers in an open field.
Using air support the team was able to help capture the suspect. The chopper's Forward Looking Infrared camera, or FLIR system, senses heat. In one case it helped officers find a missing woman with mental health problems lying on a trail just in time to save her.
On Wednesday their suspect was spotted hiding in bush. Able 6 directed the team to the suspect. All of their training leads to a safe ending.
"Every community to include the most rural community has a tactical team and has an aircraft section and has a bomb team, and that's us," Gallegos said. "So we take a lot of pride, and we train very hard to meet those missions when they come."
There are 16 tactical team members of the State Police. Each is SWAT-qualified. Training missions like this one are done at least twice a year.
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