Va. cop invents self-powered battering ram
Officer Scott Chambers knows the importance of getting through a suspect's door fast
CHESAPEAKE, Va. — That warm January night in 2008 felt routine in almost every way. Scott Chambers and Jarrod Shivers reviewed the plan over sushi with a partner.
They drove by a house on Redstart Avenue where police suspected a marijuana-growing operation. They grabbed a coffee before joining the rest of the team at the 2nd Precinct to go over the drug-search plan.
Shivers was dead by the end of the night, shot as colleagues used a battering ram to get through the shooter's front door.
Chambers watched his buddy die . For the next six months, the police sergeant replayed it. He analyzed each moment, second-guessed, grieved.
Later, the shooter was convicted of voluntary manslaughter.
Chambers thought about an old idea.
He'd spent a dozen years on the Chesapeake Police Department's SWAT Team, eight in vice and narcotics. He knew the importance of getting through a suspect's door fast.
An explosive entry could harm someone inside. A battering ram that did not breach a door entirely could endanger those on the outside.
A ram - little more than a 40-pound cement-filled cylinder - relies on the thrust of the person who swing s it. Miss it the first time and give the bad guy time to get away, or find a gun .
What police needed was something in the middle. Something for high-risk search warrants and hostage situations and barricades. Essentially, a self-powered ram.
Chambers developed an apparatus that could do all of that. He started a company, and n ow it's in production.
The air-powered RAM FX6 applies thousands of pounds of force. Police need only guide it, and the ram will break down a standard door on the first swing. The success rate, Chambers said, is nearly perfect.
The Web site, RapidEntrySolutions.com, boasts of its life-saving potential. One page gives a brief account of Jan. 17, 2008: How the team pounded on the door and yelled "police." How they tried to burst in. How they tried to save him.
How Shivers' death motivated Chambers to get moving.
"There's nothing we could have done differently or better when my buddy died. But it has the potential to prevent other police wives and children from going through this given the same circumstances," Chambers said at a recent Police Unity Tour fundraiser in Chesapeake.
The sergeant, now retired, sat at a picnic table on the deck of Big Woody's Bar and Grill, pausing every few minutes to say hello to the retired and off-duty officers who filled the place.
Chambers talked about the unassuming detective, a father of three children who wasn't keen on the pricey sushi dinner that night. They ribbed each other over it. Then Chambers and Shivers' partner picked up the tab. He told of the impromptu gathering after Shivers was declared dead, and how the team still does it every Jan. 17 after visiting his grave site.
He described how he'd never raised money for the Police Unity Tour until Shivers died. Last May, he cycled from Chesapeake to Washington, D.C., a three-day trek down back roads with hundreds of other officers. He told Shivers stories to strangers.
Today, Chambers will give helicopter rides from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Hampton Roads Executive Airport in exchange for donations to the cause.
This is another part of healing.
"You don't forget for a couple of reasons," Chambers said. "You don't forget so you don't disgrace your buddy, and so you learn and hopefully do better."
Copyright 2010 Virginian-Pilot
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