A family of “sovereign citizens” in North Dakota was arrested with the help of a predator drone, borrowed from border patrol agents by the local sheriff in an effort to avoid a standoff over some missing cows.
The arrest took place back in late June, after Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke conducted a search for six missing cows on the farm of the Brossart family. He was chased off by three men carrying rifles, and called in an unarmed Predator B Drone for backup, as well as “reinforcements from the state Highway Patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulances and deputy sheriffs from three other counties,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
With the drones, “we don’t have to go in guns blazing,” Janke said. “We can take our time and methodically plan out what our approach should be.”
Through use of the drone, law enforcement was able to track down the three suspects and determine when they were no longer armed, so local officials could go in and make the arrests. Rodney Brossart reportedly still had to be tazed during the arrest, and caused about $1000 worth of damage after being put in a squad car.
The Brossart family is allegedly part of the sovereign citizen movement, and two of them had been arrested earlier in the day over the missing cattle. Authorities later found the cows, as well an assortment of guns and other weapons, including bows and arrows and a samurai sword. Rodney Brossart, his daughter and three sons face 11 felony charges, including terrorizing a sheriff.
The Brossart case is the first known instance of predator drones being used in the arrest of a civilian. Local law enforcement said that since these arrests, they’ve used the two drones, stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base, only to conduct surveillance, albeit about two dozen times. The FBI and DEA say they use the drones to conduct other domestic investigations.
“We don’t use [the drones] on every call out,” Bill Macki, head of the SWAT team in Grand Forks, told the Times. “If we have something in town like an apartment complex, we don’t call them.”
“Anything where we need an advantage, we try to give them a call,” said Macki. “We are very fortunate to have them in our area willing to assist us.”
The drones belong to U.S. Customs and Border Control, which has used eight drones to patrol the country’s borders for illegal immigrants since Congress authorized it in 2005.