Drone helps catch armed suspect following Point Sur Lighthouse break-in

Drone helps catch armed suspect following Point Sur Lighthouse breakin

BIG SUR, Calif. - A drone helped the Monterey County Sheriff's Office locate an armed intruder in the Big Sur area over the weekend. 

According to the sheriff's office, the suspect, Tony Snowden of Hollister, broke into the historical buildings at the Point Sur Lighthouse sometime Saturday night. On Sunday, lighthouse docents spotted Snowden inside one of the buildings. The three docents locked themselves inside another building. 

Snowden reportedly ran off with a rifle. 

California State Park rangers and deputies responded to the scene. 

A drone was launched and Snowden was located on top of a hill at the far end of the volcanic rock outcropping. Snowden was ultimately found and arrested nearby. 

"Snowden had thrown the rifle in the bushes prior to rangers coming into contact with him," said MCSO. "Snowden later mentioned he saw the drone and knew he was spotted so he wanted to stash the rifle."

The incident is being investigated by California State Park rangers. 

"Drones are really just a way to carry the camera to the sky," said Paul Black, a Pacific Grove resident who owns his own drones. "So it gets us kind of a fresh perspective and something that's really interesting." 

Black uses his drones for his company Black Sky, which does aerial imaging and mapping. Drones can be a way to collect data as well for a whole range of subjects. 

"Tree canopies, agriculture crops and in golf, you can use this to analyze the turf health of a golf course," he said. "I think a drone is just another tool the police can deploy. So if they don't know where a perpetrator is located, then why not? It's easy to do, it's available to them." 

But privacy is a major concern as some are afraid about what other things drones might be used for. 

Black says he believes with more regulations coming along, there will not be as much need for concern.

"You know, if a perpetrator was jumping the fence in our backyard coming through the lot that we live in, we'd probably say it was OK for police to enter our yard," he said. "Well, (if) they're trying to track down a perpetrator and using a drone with a camera to try and identify him, we'd probably say that's probably OK for the general safety of our community and our family." 

Black says the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to announce an electronic license plate system for drones in the next year. It will help identify who the drone belongs to and the location of the owner. 

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