BOISE -- The first SWAT team to look for James DiMaggio and 16-year-old Hannah Anderson deep in the Idaho wilderness were members of the Ada Metro SWAT team. Our local law enforcement were on the ground before the FBI arrived, and their efforts proved to be invaluable.
Ada Metro SWAT began to mobilize Friday morning, shortly after DiMaggio's car was found at Morehead Lake. Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney got on a conference call with numerous agencies, from Valley County to Homeland Security and the FBI. The agencies began to make a plan to find Hannah and bring her home. That plan involved 20 members of Ada Metro SWAT.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. Everybody's going to have some sort of nerves. But we train for stuff like this," said Jeremy Byington, member of Ada Metro SWAT.
The Ada Metro SWAT team was transported by Blackhawk helicopters from Gowen Field into the area of Pistol Creek Ranch Friday afternoon. Byington says the helicopters took a route that wouldn't let DiMaggio know they were moving in.
"We were some of the very first tactical officers in the Pistol Creek area clearing from the north to the south, trying to close that gap on DiMaggio," said Sgt. Patrick Calley, member of Ada Metro SWAT. "I was very concerned about coming across DiMaggio and to learn that maybe he found another hiker and used them as capture and leverage."
Pistol Creek Ranch is located about 30 miles from where DiMaggio's car was found hidden at Morehead Lake. It is downstream from where the horseback riders spotted DiMaggio and Hannah on Wednesday. Calley says it was a logical location for the pair to head to next and why Ada Metro SWAT focused their efforts in that area.
"Once they found his car they figured he was headed in that direction maybe to acquire some other means of transportation, whether it be a raft to float down the river or possibly hijack an airplane that's at the airstrip at Pistol Creek Ranch," said Byington.
The local SWAT team began to secure the area and to look for DiMaggio and Hannah. They checked cabins, trailheads and river banks, covering the the never-ending wilderness inch-by-inch, not knowing where DiMaggio and Hannah would turn up.
"It's like finding a needle in a haystack in a pile of haystacks up there," said Sgt. Pat Schneider, Ada Metro SWAT Team Leader.
The daunting mission lasted roughly 24 hours until the FBI relieved the local team. The 20 members were on their way back to Cascade when they got word DiMaggio had been found and Hannah was safe.
"The number one goal on everybody's mind was Hannah's safety," said Calley.
"It was an amazing thing to be a part of all for that common goal of helping Hannah," said Schneider.
There were no local SWAT members who were part of the confrontation with DiMaggio before he was shot and killed in the area of Morehead Lake. Schneider says that team was made up of agents from the FBI.
Ada Metro SWAT has 30 members. They are officers from the Meridian and Garden City Police Departments, the Ada County Sheriff's Office, and Ada County Paramedics.