WASHINGTON (WUSA9) – On Monday morning, as SWAT teams swarmed the Washington Navy Yard from the ground, U.S. Park Police helicopter Eagle 1 circled the scene from above.
On board was a four-person crew with skills perfectly suited for an active shooter situation. They’re police officers, rescue technicians, and paramedics, and Monday was the mission they’d prepared their entire careers for.
“I’d say yesterday was a challenging flying day for all of us,” said U.S. Park Police Sargent Ken Burchell, the pilot.
For nearly four-hours, he flew Eagle 1 low-to-the-ground and dangerously close to buildings.
“We’re flying close so we can look for anything out of the ordinary,” said Burchell. “Certainly if we can find a shooter or something that doesn’t look right, we’re calling it out to the units that are inside.”
But inside was also a gunman, and the crew of Eagle 1 knew that they could be his next target. Officer Michael Abate hung from the helicopter with an M-16 rifle to provide cover.
“I was making sure that there’s a rifle pointed downrange if the suspect were to pop out,” said Abate.
As Officer Kelvin Dyson communicated with the teams on the ground, Sargent Dave Tolson operated the Coast Guard Rescue Basket that was used to extract four people from the rooftop of Building 197.
“We work together as a team, so you depend on the other folks in your team to provide safety while you do your job,” said Tolson.
One of the people that Eagle 1 rescued from the rooftop was a woman that had been shot in the shoulder.
“That was probably one of the most gratifying moments of my career, being able to get that poor lady off the roof and into the aircraft and to the hospital,” said Tolson.
“We felt good that we were able to get those people off the roof. Those people were in a bad situation and that’s what we do – get people out of bad situations,” said Burchell.