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4:15 PM Tue, Oct. 16th

KPD arsenal becomes high-tech via nonlethal weapons

Adding to a high-tech arsenal, Kingman Police Department officials are looking to buy the latest non-lethal technology, a weapon that resembles a cross between a AK47 and a paintball gun.

Next week, KPD Lt.

Ray Sipe will go to Safford for training on a non-lethal PepperBall system.

The department plans to buy one of the $750 launchers in about one month for training and evaluation.

The goal is to supply each of the department's squads with a launcher.

"It would be another tool to take people into custody without hurting them," Sipe said.

The non-lethal weapon would be used if a suspect is belligerent or drunk and refuses the commands of an officer.

Officers will use non-lethal weapons as the first option unless the suspect is known to be armed with a gun.

Then police would use a lethal weapon as a last result, he said.

For the past year, the department has been using a 37mm grenade launcher that fires beanbags at a suspect.

Officers can also fire rubber bullets or tear gas with the launcher.

Only the bean bag and the rubber bullets are shot directly at a person.

Getting hit by a bean bag knocks a suspect into submission.

If hit in the head or face, it could kill a person, but officers are trained to aim at the chest or shoulder.

"The beanbags are one-dimensional," Sipe said.

"They'll only cause a blunt trauma to the body.

With PepperBalls, they not only cause pain when shot but they also envelop a suspect in a cloud of pepper dust."

The PepperBalls are filled with oleoresin capsicum, an extract from red peppers, and encapsulated in a plastic-covered ball about the size of a marble.

They are the same substance used in the pepper spray canisters.

The ball is designed to explode on contact releasing a cloud of pepper spray that causes the suspect's eyes to burn, so they cannot open.

The suspect is incapacitated for up to 30 minutes.

The impact of a PepperBall is about the same force as getting hit with a paintball capsule.

Getting hit with a beanbag, however, is more than 10 times the impact force of a PepperBall.

And that could send a suspect to the hospital or worse.

The automatic rifle can fire 12 shots a second.

The gun can hold 80 rounds, 20 rounds in a clip and 60 rounds in the forward magazine.

KPD also plans to buy projectiles designed to shatter glass, so they can shoot through car windows, Sipe said.

The PepperBalls are fired by high-pressure air, similar to a paintball gun.

The weapon is effective up to 100 feet but used ideally within 30 feet of the suspect.

While a pepper spray canister is only good at close range, an officer can fire a PepperBall from a safe distance, he said.

The beanbag, a two-inch diameter bag filled with lead shot, is fired from a grenade launcher.

Kingman police have been using beanbag weapons for about one year.

The PepperBall launchers would not replace the beanbags but supplement them, Sipe said.

KPD used beanbag rounds on two recent occasions, once to subdue a bank robbery suspect who refused to surredner and threatened to injure officers with a propane bottle.

Several weeks ago, a suicidal man with a handgun was shot with beanbags after officers shot the gun away from him.

"Five to 10 years ago, those situations would have probably ended up in a fatality," Sipe said.

"These are life saving tools.

There are two people who are still alive today.

Five years ago they would have been shot."

Currently the only law enforcement agency in the county using the PepperBall launcher is the Bullhead City Police Department.

They have been using the PepperBall launchers since April.

Of the three launchers bought by the department, two are assigned to patrol officers and one to animal control.

"If someone wants to fight, it will take the fight out of you," Bullhead City police Lt.

Steve Smith said.