Aerial surveillance played crucial role in tracking man accused of shooting at Eustis police officer

Marion County Sheriff’s Office helicopters provided vital assistance to officials in Lake County in locating a man accused of shooting at a law enforcement officer on Dec. 19.   Now, they are sharing how important these helicopters are when it comes to fighting crime.

Officials say Jayson Colvin was hiding under a canoe in a wooded area after shooting at a captain with the Eustis Police Department. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office helped bring the hours-long manhunt to an end as pilots tracked him down in their helicopters and notified Lake County law enforcement officers on the ground. 

“They were able to utilize the camera with the infrared and literally see the bad guy, for lack of a better term, the heat emanating from under the canoe,” said Lt. Don Standridge of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit. “From that video, they’re watching, watching, and see him stick his head out and identify where he is.”

Officials say pilots guided a SWAT team with the Lake County Sheriff's Office through the heavily wooded area where they located Colvin armed. Members of the SWAT team ordered Colvin to put down his weapon, when he did not, deputies opened fire.

Three helicopters are equipped with high-quality cameras, infrared technology, and modern GPS systems. It’s the technology that’s just two years old in the department, but already a vital part of their search efforts.

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“We could have possibly found him with the older camera, but I don’t think they would have been able to see the detail that they needed to see, to still see the gun in his hand,” Lt. Standridge said.

The Sheriff’s Office says the helicopters are used daily to help find people who are lost or a dangerous person on the run.

“These things, while they’re not impossible to hide from, make it very difficult,” Lt. Standridge said.

The search effort involved multiple agencies, but without help from helicopters Lt. Standridge believes Colvin could have gotten away.

“It is highly likely that that gentleman would have gotten away that day. A large chunk of woods, nobody knew exactly where he was,” Lt. Standridge said.