Sheriff's office uses seized drug money to buy armored vehicle

By Paul Suarez, Columbian freelance

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Drug money paid for a new armored vehicle for the Clark County Sheriff's Office.

The vehicle, a $375,000 Lenco Bearcat G3, was delivered to the sheriff's office earlier this month. On Thursday, deputies and police officers ran the vehicle through a training course near the Clark County Fairgrounds.

Sheriff's Sgt. K.C. Kasberg said the sheriff's office started looking for a new armored vehicle after a Washougal standoff in December. In that incident, Steven Stanbary set his home on fire and shot a variety of high-powered rifles and handguns out of the home for at least 90 minutes, keeping police and firefighters at bay.

One of the sheriff's two PeaceKeeper armored cars, which were bought as surplus several years ago, broke down on the way to the standoff, Kasberg said. "When we really needed it … it didn't work."

It wasn't the first time deputies had issues with the old armored vehicles, he said.

The new G3 is a different, larger model than the black Bearcat owned by the Vancouver Police Department. It is built on a Ford F-550 truck frame.

According to the Lenco website, the car can fit a 10-man tactical team, protects against .50-caliber ammunition and has a high-ground clearance for "aggressive off-road performance and superior maneuverability." Further details on the vehicle were not available.

Money used to buy the vehicle "came from the ill-gotten gains of the criminal element," said Sgt. Fred Neiman, sheriff's spokesman. In other words, money seized from drug raids. Neiman said seized drug money can be used by the sheriff's office to help pay for drug enforcement activity and equipment.

The Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force will likely use the vehicle when serving search warrants, said Kasberg. All patrol deputies will be trained to use the vehicle, he said.