On March 7, 2023, at approximately 6:00 pm, Chico Police Officers located Branden Thurston (26) walking near Humboldt Avenue and Little Chico Creek. Thurston was wanted by Chico Police due to an active felony warrant for his arrest. As Officers attempted to contact Thurston, he immediately fled on foot. During the foot pursuit, Thurston fled into Little Chico Creek and concealed himself within heavily thorned bushes. This created an extreme Officer safety issue and prevented the use of a Police K-9.
Due to the lack of visibility and Officer safety issues created by Thurston, an Unmanned Aerial System, also known as a drone, was quickly deployed by a Chico Police Officer. This Officer is trained and certified as a law enforcement drone pilot. The pilot quickly located Thurston using the onboard thermal imaging and spotlight systems. The pilot then directed Officers to Thurston’s location, where they started giving verbal commands for him to come out. Thurston realized he was located and complied with the commands of the Officers. Thurston was taken into custody without any use of force or further incidents occurring.
This incident highlights how technology has helped to de-escalate situations, improve Officer and community safety, and decrease the amount of staff time spent on these types of incidents. Drone technology can be quickly deployed and provides real-time intelligence, which would otherwise be difficult to obtain through traditional means.
The Chico Police Department continues to be transparent with the community in the use of drones by ensuring the community has access to our flight logs on the Police Department’s website. These logs are routinely updated and can be viewed at the following link: https://app.airdata.com/u/chicopd
Location: Humboldt Avenue/Little Chico Creek near the skate park
Suspect: Brandon Thurston (26 years old)
Victim: State of California
Supervisor: Sgt. Mark Bass
Lieutenant: Lt. Ben Love
The Chico Police Department is committed to ensuring our community is a safe place to live, work, and recreate within!