190413_DRONE

This screenshot captured from a drone video shows a suspect (in red) prior to capture by the Janesville Police Department.

JANESVILLE

Score one for the eye in the sky.

Janesville police used a drone Thursday night to nab a wanted man they say tried to hide out in his neighborhood.

Video from the drone shows a bird’s-eye view of the search and arrest in the 300 block of Ringold Street of Ryan Weaver, 30, of 303 S. Ringold St., Janesville.

An officer had gone to Weaver’s home about 8:30 p.m. Thursday to speak to him about a retail theft, Deputy Police Chief Terry Sheridan said. After the officer talked to Weaver and returned to his squad car, Weaver went out the back door and took off through neighboring yards.

The officer later learned Weaver was wanted for a probation violation, returned to the home and found Weaver gone, Sheridan said.

Weaver is on probation for a drug conviction, Sheridan said.

Officer Steve Carpenter, the department’s drone operator, heard on the radio officers setting up a perimeter around the neighborhood and suggested launching the drone, which he keeps in his squad car while on duty, Sheridan said.

The drone video shows the outlines of houses and trees below as Carpenter locates and zeroes in on the bright red outline of Weaver, who police said was hiding between a house and a detached garage about four doors away from his home.

Audio with the video provides back-and-forth communication between Carpenter and officers trying to locate Weaver on foot.

Sheridan said it’s not clear if Weaver knew he was being tracked by the drone.

The video shows Weaver surrendering to an officer by putting his hands against the garage where he had been hiding.

Police said Weaver was arrested without incident and is being held at the Rock County Jail on suspicion of probation violation.

Sheridan said the police department has had a drone since 2017, but Thursday night was the first time it was used to help make an arrest. The incident confirms the drone’s value, he said.

“We’re able to see firsthand how beneficial it is,” Sheridan said. “Just showing how when it’s used properly we can really increase officer safety, we can cover a lot of ground that we can’t necessarily cover quickly on foot with the drone where it’s up and it’s much more efficient.”

Sheridan noted how Carpenter was able to warn an officer approaching Weaver on foot where to look for the suspect.

“On your right,” Carpenter can be heard telling the officer on foot approaching the suspect.

Sheridan said the drone could be used in the same way to find a missing person.