NEW PHILADELPHIA — In its continuing effort to provide its employees with the proper equipment, the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office has purchased two state-of-the-art sniper rifles for use in hostage situations and other dangerous assignments.
The weapons will be used by Lt. Brian Alford and Sgt. Travis Stocker, who are both state-certified SWAT snipers.
The sheriff’s office paid $10,500 for the two rifles, using money seized in drug cases.
"It’s just a pretty useful tool," said Sheriff Orvis Campbell. "We hope we never use them, but we plan on taking good care of them, and not having to buy any more for a long time."
The .308-caliber rifles were custom-built over several months by Head Down Products of Dallas, Ga. The parts that were used were expensive, but they also make the rifles highly accurate. They are good to 600 to 700 yards, Alford said.
"When you have a hostage situation, you can’t miss," he said.
The rifles have Krieger Barrels - stainless steel barrels that have more world record shots made than any other barrel company. The barrels took five months to manufacture. The triggers were manufactured by Geissele Automatics and each weapon is topped by a Leupold optic sight.
"Precision rifles have multiple uses for law enforcement," Campbell said. "Of course, the first use that is thought of is that of ending a hostage situation. While this is true, we certainly hope that this need never arises. If that need does arise, there is very little margin for error.
"Another significant use is to ‘cover’ other officers executing dangerous details. A sniper can provide long distant visual cover in many situations so that if gun violence was to begin, it could possibly be ended quicker. There are many cases in Ohio where snipers are used for cover and to end a situation peacefully, including a well-known instance where a Columbus police officer shot the pistol out of the hand of a man during an unstable and potentially violent situation."
Added Alford, "Our primary role is eyes on the target. We get there, and we’re forward observation."
In rare cases, the sheriff’s department has had to use a sniper to put down a rabid or dangerous animal in a populated area, Campbell said. That was also done in recent years in Muskingum County when several wild animals were intentionally let loose.
"The use of the sniper is truly one we hope to never have to call upon, however, we have an obligation to be prepared when needed," the sheriff said. "The specific skills of a well-trained sniper with a finely tuned precision rifle cannot be duplicated by any other tool in the law enforcement tool box."
Alford said the department has never had weapons like this before.
The sheriff’s office is also purchasing new guns, weapon-mounted lights, holsters and magazine pouches for every member of the department. That is being paid for with the proceeds from the sale of a Depression-era Thompson sub machine gun, which was sold at auction in September for $90,000.