Willimantic’s new 13-foot-high ride tends to turn heads around town.
It’s a 21-ton black truck that’s 22-feet long and carries a $700,000 price tag.
The truck is not an ordinary sight in the eastern Connecticut area – that is until now.
“There’s a lot of, ‘What is that thing?’ kind of a look. Again, this is mostly used in military applications overseas in the time of a war zone, so for people to see it driving down a residential street, they’re really curious as to what is it and where did it come from,” says Officer Jonathan Lisee.
The truck came from Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s called an MRAP, which stands for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected.
“It is a truly multipurpose vehicle,” says Cpl. Matt Solak.
Solak helped write the grant proposal for the Willimantic Police Department.
The tank-like truck holds two officers in the front and eight-10 in the rear.
It’s now part of Willimantic’s “SOG” or Special Operations Group.
“In police work you never know what’s going to happen,” says Officer Lisee.
That was especially true in June 2013, when Officer Kevin Winkler was shot in the arm during a routine call.
The alleged shooter was 34-year-old Andrew Samoulis.
With air-pressured doors and steel that’s bulletproof up to 50 caliber, Willimantic Police say the truck is more than just a new tool. They say it’s a truck that will save lives.
“If something were to go wrong, and say, someone were to start shooting at the police like what happened last summer,” says Cpl. Solak, referring to the need for such a vehicle.
The shooting incident is precisely why the Willimantic PD applied for the Department of Defense grant to get the truck and got it for free in October.
“It will be used for hostage situations, active shooter, officer down type situations,” says Officer Lisee.
Lisee drives the truck now just as he drove similar vehicles in the Middle East during his tours with the Army reserve.
The MRAP truck is able to ford water that’s 36 inches high and slice through walls of Connecticut snow.
Its run-flat tires even have fire suppressant systems built in.
The hope is that the department doesn’t have another officer-involved shooting, but while Connecticut’s not exactly a war zone, the state has had its share of serious situations, where a truck like the MRAP would have come in handy.
“If this vehicle is never used to rescue an injured officer or civilian for its entire career life, I’m happy with that, but in the event we need to deploy it in that capacity, we’re really happy we have this truck here,” says Solak.