Armored truck saves lives in Gloucester Township police standoff

Chief David Harkins thanks council for its support in recent years 

While Gloucester Township Council’s regular meeting on Oct. 26 featured routine agenda items, an interaction between police and a Clementon man eight days before was the main topic.

The man was arrested on Sunday, Oct. 18, after throwing Molotov cocktails and knives at township police officers who had responded to a call at his home regarding an inoperable vehicle. Chief David Harkins described the man as “in crisis” during the council meeting.

“The support that you provide the police department allowed us to get that gentleman into custody safely and uninjured,” Harkins told council. “He had destroyed a vehicle in front of his house and we were trying to remove it.”

Harkins said the man threw “everything he could out the window at the officers” who responded to the scene after a report about objects thrown at the tow truck driver’s head.

The bulletproof, armored rescue truck, nicknamed the Bearcat, was purchased by the township for $277,986 in 2013, a move that met with criticism in the community. But Harkins said the truck has helped save officers’ lives in multiple scenarios over the past seven years.

“I often get questioned why we need that and why we need weapons. We have plenty of guns; it was the specially trained officers with their less lethal options and capabilities, and their training with their equipment, that was able to safely resolve this situation,” Harkins said of the Oct. 18 standoff, which lasted more than five hours.

“The Bearcat kept the officers safe.”

The vehicle was also used during a 10-hour police standoff in the Brittany Woods development in 2018.

Councilman Dan Hutchinson was present at the council meeting seven years ago when the truck’s purchase was approved. and he remembered discussions with a resident who said the vehicle was a poor purchase for the township.

“There was a gentleman in the audience years ago when we first purchased the Bearcat and I posed the question to him … If it were to save one police officer’s life, would it not be worth it?” Hutchinson recalled. “He responded no, so I’m really glad to hear that you guys are utilizing it.”

Harkins also praised the work of the Gloucester Township Department of Public Works for cleaning up the location of the incident as well as assisting other residents nearby after the man was taken into custody.