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Oct. 8, 2004 | SWAT urged for high-risk raids

In a memo dated 12 days after Broward Sheriff's Detective Todd Fatta was shot to death serving a search warrant, a BSO sergeant recommended that a SWAT team be used to serve "high risk warrants" in the agency.

The memo, released to The Herald Thursday night, addresses an issue raised almost immediately after Fatta was shot by a known weapons enthusiast who had threatened to "hunt down" cops: Should a SWAT team have gone into the home of suspect Kenneth Wilk?

While it doesn't mention Fatta or the fatal shooting by name, the memo, from Sgt. William J. Pennypacker addressed to Sheriff Ken Jenne, recommends that using SWAT for high-profile arrest warrants in the future was reasonable and feasible.

BSO faced tough questions following Fatta's August death for not calling in SWAT teams. Deputies and other law enforcement officials questioned why the BSO or Fort Lauderdale SWAT teams - units highly trained for volatile situations and outfitted with superior gear - weren't called in when members of a task force that tracks Internet pedophiles used a battering ram to enter the Fort Lauderdale home of the alleged shooter, pornography suspect Wilk.

Following the shooting, Jenne responded to criticisms saying "We cannot call out the SWAT team every time we do this."

"We do 10,000 attempts at warrants, probably 20,000 warrants, some more dangerous than this, every time, " Jenne said after the Aug. 19 shooting, addressing concerns about the protective gear Fatta was wearing and the decision not to call in the SWAT team.

In Pennypacker's memo, he said, "We have to plan for the unexpected, and we have to assume anyone that we are serving a warrant on that owns a gun will try to use it on us as we attempt to take his freedom away from him."

"Training for anything less would make us complacent and opens us up to future problems. It is feasible to have SWAT serve the 200 or so narcotics warrants and high profile arrest warrants throughout the agency to reduce our agency and personal liability, " wrote Pennypacker, a BSO firearms training instructor.

Fatta and Sgt. Angelo Cedeño were members of a BSO special entry team, not a SWAT team. Fatta's Kevlar vest was unable to stop the rifle bullet that officials say was fired by Wilk.

Fatta and Cedeño had received 40 hours of training, plus additional training every few months on weapons and entry techniques, officials said.The memo points out that the SWAT team members train 28 times a year for a total of 224 hours every year.

"Our SWAT team members are already fully equipped and all members pass a minimum set of standards and can operate at a high proficiency level, for a substantial period of time, " it says. "Department detectives not on SWAT do not have to pass stringent requirements and do not all operate on the same level. Most detectives did not get into their respective units to participate in forced entries, although every SWAT member signed on for just that."

The memo continues: "A reasonable solution to this dilemma would be to have SWAT serve the narcotics warrants and all other high risk warrants in the agency."

Also included in the memo are considerations for new equipment that would be recommended for units that make forced entries like the one that Fatta and Cedeño were in.

The equipment includes vest carriers that can be worn on top of a uniform or concealed vest to "add rifle grade protection." An estimated price for each vest carrier and ceramic plate would be about $700, the memo says. It also talks about ballistic helmets that protect against high velocity handgun ammunition and cost about $240 each as well as .223 caliber rifles that would cost $650 to $800 each.

Fatta, 33, who was struck near the heart, was pronounced dead at North Broward Medical Center.

Cede o, 36, was shot in the hand and shoulder. Surgeons amputated his left middle finger.

Wilk, 42, who lived at the Fort Lauderdale home with another man, Kelly Ray Jones, 39, had once been charged with threatening a police officer over the Internet. Police knew Wilk had a concealed weapons permit and owned a number of high-powered weapons.

Fort Lauderdale police officers were so queasy about the people in the sprawling home in the city's Coral Highlands neighborhood that they had red-flagged the house in their computers. The SWAT team had drawn up a plan detailing the layout just in case a siege ever took place.Jones, a registered sex offender, was in the St. Lucie County Jail on federal child pornography charges.

Task force members arrested Jones on July 15 on charges of using the Internet to send illicit images of children to an undercover detective. BSO officials said an undercover St. Lucie County Sheriff's deputy who received the photos was the same investigator who arrested Jones in March 2001 on six counts of child pornography.