CUSTER, S.D. (KOTA TV) - A love of aviation and a passion for law enforcement come together for one area man who wants to bring air assets to local public safety agencies.
As a sheriff's deputy, Heath Lowry has been fighting crime for decades. But in 2015 he found himself on the other side of the coin when his brother was murdered on the streets of Rapid City. Lowry knew then he wanted to give back to law enforcement that has given him his livelihood -- and helped his family through tough times.
"Remembering my brother and what this is about," said Lowry, a Custer County Sheriff's Deputy. "It's about victims of crime and making sure we prevent that in the future."
He has formed a non profit corporation and though it purchased a gyro copter aircraft he wants to donate to an area public safety agency.
His pitch? This is a tool that can work.
"It might be a search and rescue. it might be a missing person. It might be evidence that was thrown from a car that we can't locate," he said. "With our infrared camera, our high def camera from the sky we might be able to pick that up and save a person's life or collect some critical evidence that could be the difference between an acquittal and a conviction."
He recently presented the idea of donating the aircraft to the Custer County Commission and has introduced the idea less formally to other public safety agencies.
"We put a lot of energy into this because we believe in the cause," he said. "We believe that crime can be affected and reduced and people's lives can be saved with the right tools in the field."
He has outfitted the aircraft with searchlights and his foundation, he says, will underwrite the upkeep, keeping costs to a bare minimum for an agency that wants it.
"I've studied law enforcement aviation for over two decades," he said. "Gyro planes are an efficient way to conduct patrols and do searches. They're safe. They're maneuverable. We can do 90 to 95 percent of what a helicopter can do at 10 percent of the cost.