Middleton Police use drone to locate robbery suspect

UPDATED: Monday, June 2, 2015 --- 4:10 p.m.

MIDDLETON, Wis.--- Middleton Police credit a Search and Rescue Drone for helping to locate a robbery suspect Sunday afternoon.

The man arrested has been identified as 21-year-old Marquis M. Phiffer, of Monroe.

According to police, Phiffer stole a car that was parked at EVP Coffee, located at 555 S. Midvale Boulevard. The 50-year-old victim left his car running while he ran inside the coffee shop.

A report came in around 1:50 p.m. that the BP gas station, located at 6504 University Ave in Middleton, had been robbed. When police arrived, officers saw the car the suspect was driving, and a pursuit followed.

Police said Phiffer eventually crashed the car into a parked car on Voss Parkway and then ran off. Police then deployed a Search and Rescue Drone from Middleton Fire Department, and found the suspect laying in a grassy area near Tiedemann's Pond. The suspect was taken into custody.

According to Middleton Fire Chief Aaron Harris, the drone was purchased through a private donation from a Middleton resident.

Phiffer was transported to the Dane County Public Safety Building and charged with robbery, operating a motor vehicle without owner's consent and eluding an officer.
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UPDATED: Sunday, May 31, 2015 --- 10:00 p.m.

MIDDLETON, Wis. -- It's not every day you hear about a suspect getting spotted by a drone. That's exactly what happened in Middleton today, thanks to an "eye in the sky."

When the Middleton Fire Department's battalion chief, Randy Acker heard police were looking for a suspect, his thoughts instantly went to the drone, sitting at the station.

"I immediately contacted our fire chief and suggested contacting PD dispatch and see if they would be interested in having us deploy our drone to fly over the pond to see if we can search for the suspect," said Chief Acker.

Finding anything near Tiedeman's Pond is no easy task. With swampy areas and cattails, it was the perfect hiding spot.

"it's hard to say how long the search would have taken without the drone, police also had k9 units on scene so it's hard to say how long it would've taken," added Acker.

Weighing in less than three pounds, the flying machine, provided Middleton Police with a perspective they wouldn't have had from the ground. Middleton fire chief Aaron Harris was manning the controls.

"It was a technical flight with not a lot of areas to land because of the cattails and water, plus trees and so a lot was going through my mind, as far as this is a very technical flight and we're looking for somebody that's potentially hiding within that area," said Chief Harris.

Less than ten minutes into the flight, Chief Harris spotted what they were looking for--embedded in a tall area of cattails.

"[we] looked at a signature on the display screen, thought it could be a human being laying down in the cattails showed it to the police officers and sure enough they said that' the individual we're looking for," said Harris.

Harris says today's incident was just one of many uses for the device. For that reason, chief Harris says they're looking to expand the collection.

" without a helicopter or airplane in the air, were now able to efficiently and effectively in the air and look out over us. today it was just helping the Middleton police."

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Posted: Sunday, May 31, 2015 --- 7:00 p.m.

Middleton Police credit a Search and Rescue Drone for helping to locate a robbery suspect Sunday afternoon.

A report came in around 1:50 p.m. that the BP gas station, located at 6504 University Ave in Middleton, had been robbed. When police arrived, officers saw the suspect's car leaving, and a pursuit followed.

The suspect eventually crashed the car into a parked car on Voss Parkway and then ran off. Police then deployed a Search and Rescue Drone from Middleton Fire Department, and found the suspect laying in a grassy area near Tiedemann's Pond. The suspect was taken into custody.

According to Middleton Fire Chief Aaron Harris, the drone was purchased through a private donation from a Middleton resident.