STOCKTON – When the Stockton Police Department unveiled the Lenco BearCat® G3 in June 2012, officials claimed it could withstand AK-47 rounds from point-blank range, saying .50-caliber bullets would not penetrate its hull or puncture its run-flat tires.
The $300,000 armored SWAT vehicle’s capabilities were put to the ultimate test last week during an intense gunbattle with heavily armed bank robbers. The suspects managed to shoot out one of the BearCats’ tires near East Hammer and West lanes, but the run-flat system allowed it to proceed at reduced speeds, and the vehicle’s armor withstood a number of rounds from an AK-47-style assault rifle, police said.
“The BearCat performed its duty as an armored vehicle,” said Office Joe Silva, a spokesman for the Police Department. “It took numerous rounds of a high-powered assault rifle to the armor with no effect to it … protecting the officers inside. The tire was eventually taken out, but the run-flats kicked in so it could continue on.”
The BearCat is a modified Ford F-5550 truck that weighs about 17,000 pounds, transports 10 to 12 people, and features a roof hatch with gun-mounting capabilities, police said. The Police Department paid for the vehicle by selling items seized from drug dealers, authorities said.
The BearCat has bulletproof glass that is more than an inch thick, police said. Police purchased the vehicle to provide greater protection for SWAT team members who are often called on to serve high-risk search warrants.
“There’s literally no place on this thing where the manufacturers didn’t think about the truck’s ability to stop a round,” Lt. Eric Ingersoll, SWAT commander for the Stockton Police Department, said when the BearCat was introduced in 2012.
Police released a photograph a day after the shootout showing damage to the BearCat’s right rear tire. The damaged tire and the speed of the pursuit limited the BearCat’s role in the chase, but it was useful when officers approached the suspects’ vehicle following the gunbattle, police said.
“It is not designed for high-speed pursuit,” Silva said. “It did ultimately arrive at the conclusion and was able to be used to clear the vehicle.”
By Jason Anderson
The Stockton police Lenco BearCat armored SWAT vehicle, with a damaged right
rear tire, leaves the scene on Thornton Road in Stockton where the shooting ended