Fairbanks police made the first use by a local police department of a powerful, directional sound generator during a standoff on Monday in which three men were arrested and charged with beating another man during a robbery.
The Long-Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, was used during the standoff in the 300 block of First Avenue. The device generates focused sound waves that generally can't be heard outside a cone-shaped area. Larger models for military use can generate sound levels of up to 162 decibels, well above estimated human pain thresholds for sound of 120 decibels. A Fairbanks officer said the device was only used Monday by negotiators for communications.
Alaska State Troopers have an LRAD. The trooper SWAT team, the Special Emergency Reaction Team, has previously used it, spokeswoman Megan Peters said. A request for details on those missions wasn't answered Wednesday.
Fairbanks police were first alerted to the robbery shortly before 7 a.m. Monday by employees of freight company Sourdough Express on Charles Street, according to charging documents against the suspects. An on-site caretaker was taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital with several injuries including facial fractures, a broken rib and a separated shoulder.
"The caretaker of the property confronted several suspects who severely assaulted him, then tied and taped him up," police wrote in a statement. "They held him in one building while they burglarized several other buildings on the property belonging to the business. The suspects fled with a significant amount of stolen property, a vehicle, and numerous stolen firearms."
Fairbanks police responded to the 300 block of First Avenue on Monday afternoon and arrested three men by about 5 p.m., police spokeswoman Yumi McCulloch said Tuesday. They were identified Tuesday as Mitchell Forzley, 38; Jeffrey Nickoli-Frink, 32; and Dametrey Rice, 23.
According to the charges, three vehicles with tracking devices were taken from the lot. Two were found parked nearby. The third was tracked to a building on First Avenue, where police arrived shortly after noon. After further investigation, they detained several people and secured the area.
"Officers reported a male came out on a rooftop area with a gun," police wrote in the statement. "After being given commands by the officers, he put down the gun and surrendered. When the officers went to recover the gun, they found two other guns on the rooftop."
No injuries were reported during the standoff.
Fairbanks police purchased their LRAD early this year for $9,500, using funds from a federal grant, McCulloch said.
The Fairbanks device is about the size of an amplifier for a guitar and can be carried by an officer, said Lt. Matt Soden. He said the LRAD was intended for use as a communications tool, and negotiators employed it in that capacity Monday.
"Ours potentially has the capacity, if we turned up the volume, to cause people some discomfort," Soden said. "That's not what we anticipate using it for, and that's not how we used it in this case."
Police also used a small camera-equipped robot to look inside the building before officers entered, Soden said.
All three suspects were arrested on 10 charges apiece in the incident, ranging from kidnapping, robbery, burglary and assault counts to weapons misconduct and possession of burglary tools. Nickoli-Frink faces an additional count of violating conditions of his probation.
Police are asking anyone with more information on the incident to contact Detective Anthony Laska at 907-450-6451 or firstname.lastname@example.org.