Lenco Industries BearCat Watertown Street
The Lenco Industries BearCat on the streets of Watertown in the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the incidents that followed in Watertown, Mass., prompted law enforcement personnel in the areas to use tactics they normally wouldn’t resort to.

Those tactics included the use of the BearCat — a tactical armored vehicle developed by Lenco Industries.

More than a dozen BearCats were deployed by multiple state, local, and regional agencies at the Boston Marathon scene, including one that took part in the final dramatic scene in which the BearCat climbed a 24-inch retaining wall and then used a hydraulic battering ram on the vehicle to remove the tarp covering the boat in which the suspect had been hiding.

The BearCats come in two- and four-door variants. They feature a 360-degree rotating zero gravity roof hatch and an optional armored cupola for added ballistic protection. Dual rear-mounted air conditioning and heat ensures crew comfort, and a custom center console and computer equipment designed to fleet and central command specifications guarantees interoperability. Kevlar ballistic skip round shields protect downed personnel during officer rescue missions. The ballistic blankets can be used as stretchers and IED blast seats are also available.

The armored vehicles served multiple purposes during the bombing incident, from overwatch and cover during the door to door search, to transporting large numbers of officers. The vehicles’ features and interoperability made them especially useful in the densely populated multi-agency scene manned by different groups and equipment.

The Massachusetts State Police was called in after the initial shooting in Watertown, arriving at 3 a.m. Trooper John Suyemoto explained that the state police used one of its three BearCats as its base of operations during the daylong area search around the vehicle abandoned by the fleeing suspect. The BearCat also served as the delivery platform to investigate a series of civilian call-ins about people matching the suspect’s description.

“We spent the day responding to more than 10 different calls around Watertown and Cambridge,” Suyemoto said. “We cleared out large office buildings and even responded to a report of another suicide bomber. The truck was helpful for handling these types of situations, where we had incomplete or incorrect information that must be investigated before it can be discounted. The BearCat allowed us to observe situations in general safety inside the truck.”

The daylong search for suspects over an entire city block area in Watertown was an unusual call out because it involved such a large geographical area. Sgt. Joseph Fay, of the New Hampshire-based Nashua Police Department Special Reaction Team, noted how the availability of the BearCat armored vehicles allowed a key change in tactics.

“During the mission we pushed the BearCat down the center to provide overwatch and cover while officers went door to door,” he said.

Fay explained that the BearCat was invaluable during the incident, providing better hard cover than shields in the event they had to engage with a suspect. It was also excellent for transporting large numbers of SWAT officers.

“Some were inside and many others were loaded on the outside rails, which let us quickly transport large numbers to any location and deploy quickly,” Fay said.

According to Suyemoto, the BearCat’s battering ram played a crucial role in the successful end to the operation. He explained that in the late afternoon, shortly after authorities allowed people to move around the area, a homeowner discovered that his boat had been compromised. He called 911 and the police deployed to that residence.

Trooper Suyemoto said his team was at a command post on Arsenal Street and drove to the residence, getting down in the area of the truck’s maneuverable G3 platform. Upon confirmation by a helicopter with thermal imaging that the subject was inside the boat, Suyemoto’s team mounted the 15-foot hydraulic RAM arm on the front of the truck. The hydraulic RAM bar has the ability to extend to 17 feet and elevate 12 feet.

“Thankfully, mounting the arm is a relatively quick and easy operation,” Suyemoto said. “We drove the truck up to the boat, which was difficult because we had to mount a 24-inch high stone wall. Luckily, the BearCat was up to the task.”

After a couple of attempts, Suyemoto said his team reached the top of the wall and drove up the lawn where they got the truck positioned properly. They then proceeded to remove the tarp covering the boat by moving the arm back and forth down the length of the boat to punch holes in the shrink wrap (see photos above).

“We could then remove it and see inside,” Suyemoto said. “I can tell you that it felt very good to be in a safe position within that armored car. There is very little someone armed with a regular rifle or handgun could do to us with the cover provided by the BearCat.”

Suyemoto said that at the end of the ordeal, the BearCat did everything his crew asked of it.

“We pretty much used every piece of gear we got with it except for the gas injector,” he said. “Having an armored car made that potentially dangerous situation much safer. We don’t often get equipment that does what we want it to do, so when we do, we are happy to sing its praises.”

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