Cincinnati police use drone to search out suspect on OTR rooftop


Cincinnati Police made their first drone-assisted arrest on Friday, and looked to the sky to find a suspect who had evaded police on foot.

The officers were looking for Sashay Walton, a man whose arrest has been warranted. They knew he was in a building on Peete Street, Over-the-Rhine, but their search had been unsuccessful until Sgt. Eric Franz blew a drone six stories up.

Walton was on the roof, lying down to avoid being spotted from the street.

“Someone on the ground spoke to him on the cell phone and said: ‘Look behind you'”, said Franz. “He turned around and saw the drone.”

He was admitted to the Hamilton County Justice Center that afternoon.

Franz said drone technology has become another tool used by the police to monitor traffic, get a bird’s eye view of SWAT incidents, and monitor crowds at major outdoor events. It’s a smaller, more agile answer to the traditional police helicopter.

Franz added that he wants the focus to be clear: the police aren’t using them to violate privacy rights or peek into random windows.

“We’re not looking for people who are jaywalking or walking through red lights,” he said. “We use this technology to find violent criminals and arrest them.”

Local cybersecurity expert David Hatter said he hopes law enforcement agencies across the country, including in Cincinnati, will be transparent with videos collected by drones as the technology grows in popularity.

“I think it’s the future,” he said. “I think we’ll see more of this as costs go down and capacities go up.”

Franz said the Cincinnati police will get a few more drones in September and open the box to a new generation of law enforcement agencies

“In my life, we’re going to see the shot spotter go off, and we’re going to see a drone fly, leave a little garage, go to where the shots were fired, record everything and everything on the ground,” he said .