Police credit drone with finding suspect stuck in swamp following chase

A man is in jail after a chase that ended with him being stuck in a swamp near the Alliant Energy Center Monday night, police say.

Officers stopped a car just after 12:45 a.m. for an equipment and registration violation near Rimrock Road, according to a news release by the Fitchburg Police Department.

Police said when Uriah Smith, 28, slowed the vehicle, he then got out of the car on the passenger side and ran. In the process, he left the vehicle in reverse and caused it to cross lanes on John Nolen Drive.

Officers had to maneuver their squad car to make sure it wasn’t hit by the vehicle as it rolled backward.

The car eventually came to a stop against a fire hydrant.

Madison police officers used a drone to track down Smith once he ran into a nearby marsh.

Captain Mike Hanson said the drone is a “game changer.” The department now has aerial capability that it hasn’t had in decades, along with an HD camera with infrared capabilities.

“It’s picking up on heat differences. And somebody running in a cold marsh, and (with) their body heat alone, you can see them clearly stand out,” said Hanson.

It took just seconds for the drone to locate Smith, and officers and a K-9 unit were able to quickly move in.

He was found stuck in waist-deep water. Officers had to use a rope to pull him out of the mud.

“Even with flash lights and a K-9 we could’ve been searching, 44 with how thick the brush was in that area, we could’ve been searching for hours trying to find him and still at the end of the day not even know if he was still there,” said Lt. Edward Hartwick with Fitchburg police.

Hartwick said the drone saved officers from having to search through freezing cold swamp water, and it ended up potentially saving Smith’s life too.

“Without the assistance of the K-9 and the drone we may not have ever found him. It definitely could’ve been a life-threatening situation considering the temperatures and the fact that he was stuck in water,” said Hartwick.

Smith later told police he ran because he doesn’t have a driver’s license and he panicked.

He is in Dane County Jail booked on a tentative charge of resisting or obstructing a police officer.

Police credit drone with finding suspect stuck in swamp following chase

Get your weather forecast from people who actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.