Check out Tampa's Homeland Security Special Response Team - WFLA News Channel 8

Check out Tampa's Homeland Security Special Response Team

Posted: Updated:
News Channel 8’s Jeff Patterson shooting one of the team’s weapons News Channel 8’s Jeff Patterson shooting one of the team’s weapons
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

The Department of Homeland Security in Tampa has a special response team. They are part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, or ICE.

Chances are, you've never heard of them.

The Special Response Team has been in Tampa for more than twenty years. They serve warrants on dangerous fugitives and are prepared to assist local law enforcement agencies in a variety of highly volatile situations, but even the ICE Special Agents are aware that the public doesn't know a lot about what they do.

Special Agent Kevin Power says, " Our agency has always been known for trying to follow the investigation for as long as possible and to follow it up the food chain, so most of the work we do is kind of in the shadows."

The Special Response Team puts in an additional twenty hours a month of specialized training in dangerous situations.

ICE agents normally handle cases involving child exploitation, human trafficking, and money laundering.

Deputy Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden says they handle cases that involve the movement of people or money.

Wednesday, the Special Response Team invited the media to see what they do, and how they train.

In one demonstration, agents enter a bunker like set up, designed to mimic entering a house or other building. The training facility is designed to allow for many different configurations. Special agents throw a device known and a " Flash Bang" into the room and then enter quickly with their weapons drawn to simulate the rapid takeover of a building. The weapons are armed with a special ammunition that expels paint pellets instead of lead bullets. The rounds will hurt if you are hit, but they do not kill.

Special Agent Will Abner says the training is very helpful. " They saying goes, you fight like you train, so to be able to come into a house like this and to be able to use simunitions or live fire, replicates what we are going to face in the real world so it's invaluable.", says Abner.

In another scenario, special agents use a large armored vehicle to demonstrate their capability to rescue a downed officer in an "active shooter" situation.

The armored vehicle and specialized gear help, but the agents are still exposed to danger. An undercover agent explains, "The body armor that we are wearing provides some cover and then the shield that you were carrying is an additional element. Think of it as sort of a cake I guess. It's layers of protection."

The extra layers of protection are kind of like having the team from the Department of Homeland Security there, you hope you don't need them, but are glad to have them around when you do.

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