Armored ambulance: A look at the bulletproof Medcat the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department uses in high-risk situations

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LOS ANGELES (KABC) — This may be the toughest looking ambulance you’ve ever seen.

It resembles a SWAT vehicle, but the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department MedCat is designed for emergency medical rescues.

As law enforcement knows well, when there’s a need for SWAT and Special Enforcement Bureau, there’s likely to be a need for medical assistance. And that could be in a zone where gunfire is still active.

“The fire department is limited to how far they can penetrate into a hot zone,” said Sgt. Kamal Ahmad with the LASD’s emergency services detail. “That’s where we come into play.”

The MedCat is a spitting image of the BearCat, the armored truck SWAT teams use that is usually packed with officers, weapons and tactical equipment.

But the MedCat hosts a crew of three paramedics, with all the lifesaving equipment you’d find on a regular ambulance.

Having armored vehicles like this seems like common sense for law enforcement agencies, but these trucks didn’t pop up until about 20 years ago, spurred on after a pretty major event: The North Hollywood bank shootout.

During that 1997 incident, two heavily armed bank robbers wearing body armor engaged in a violent, lengthy shootout with police that left about 20 officers and civilians injured. The robbers appeared to have more powerful firearms and armor than officers, a realization which spurred many changes in law enforcement.

Ahmad recalled that law enforcement had to commandeer private delivery trucks to try to protect civilians and injured officers.

These days, the sheriff’s department not only has BearCats and MedCats, it has an armored fire truck.

“Active shooters and terrorist activity and that kind of thing,” Ahmad said. “If something, God forbid, happens like that, we have the ability to put citizens in this thing and protect them and get them out of scenes.”

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