November 2021 incident in LaGrange, GA, is an example of how quickly a simple police contact about the welfare of children can turn into a lengthy standoff and gun battle. It’s also an example of why law enforcement agencies need armored rescue vehicles (ARVs) like the Lenco BearCat.
The incident began on Monday Nov. 16 when LaGrange officers went to the home of 39-year-old Brian Jessee to check on the welfare of his two 8-year-old children. Officers went to the home because Jessee, who was known to have access to firearms and to be experiencing mental issues, had threatened suicide. The children were taken into protective custody.
Jessee was not happy about the police removing the children and he reportedly threatened the officers. So the next day more officers showed up with an arrest warrant. That’s when Jessee barricaded himself alone inside the house that he and his ex-girlfriend rented and a standoff began. Jessee’s ex-girlfriend warned LaGrange Police that he had “an arsenal.” She meant numerous rifles, including automatic weapons, and a stockpile of ammunition and explosive Tannerite.
Video from the standoff shows Jessee came out of the house with an AR-style rifle in hand. “He was trying to maneuver around them and firing on them,” says Deputy Alec Taylor of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. That’s why LaGrange Police requested the assistance of the Coweta County SO, the Fulton County Police Department, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. They specifically needed the tactical teams of these agencies and their armored vehicles and other equipment.
Coweta County SWAT arrived on scene in its Lenco BearCat G3. And a plan was formulated for them to move in position at the back of the house. Fulton County PD and the GBI held the front of the house. They were taking lots of fire and according to radio excerpts from the scene were being targeted with explosives.
At the back of the house, Coweta County SWAT was presented with a combination garage and basement. Taylor says the team used the BearCat’s ram to “port” the garage door. “That’s the first time our Bearcat took fire from inside the residence,” he says. The Coweta team used the ram to pull down the garage door and they were met with “accurate automatic fire.” Jessee was even reportedly firing at a refrigerator that was said to be full of Tannerite. Taylor believes the man was trying to detonate the explosive.
Inside the Coweta County SO’s BearCat, the deputies could hear dozens of rounds hitting the armor. They hunkered inside the ARV, working toward their goal of convincing Jessee to surrender peacefully. Unfortunately, they never had a chance to speak with the suspect. “There was a stairwell leading out of the basement, we believed that he had crawled up under it, but we never made contact,” Taylor says.
Coweta County’s BearCat moved into position at around9 p.m. Throughout the night, the team had used it to secure more of the basement. But it could not move any farther into the house. The team was prepping to make entry on foot Wednesday morning when a fire broke out. Instead of making entry, the team pulled back, holding a secure position in the BearCat.
The house burned. As firefighters responded, ammunition cooked off and Tannerite exploded. Jessee’s body was found inside. No official cause of death has been released.
Taylor says Coweta County acquired its BearCat in 2019 in a joint purchase between the sheriff’s office and the fire department. He doesn’t know what the vehicle and its tools cost. He does know, however, that to him and the other members of Coweta SWAT, it was priceless.
“Our BearCat took something like 300 rounds,” Taylor says. “There’s no telling how horrendous this incident would have been if we had responded in unarmored vehicles.”