As Los Altos prepared to break ground at Hillview, MV-LA SWAT team used facility for training

Since the city of Los Altos Recreation Department and various program volunteers were booted out of Hillview Community Center Aug. 26 in advance of the facility’s overhaul, the building and its surrounding grounds have been quiet. Crews have erected fences and blocked off parking areas as they prepare to bring in the tools and trucks necessary for the impending demolition.

One day in early September, however, a month before the scheduled groundbreaking at the future home of the new Los Altos Community Center, the structure was repurposed for one final use: a training zone for the Mountain View-Los Altos Regional Special Weapons and Tactics team.

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Courtesy of MVPD
The Mountain-View Los Altos Regional SWAT team conducts training drills at the soon-to-be razed Hillview Community Center last month.

Four Los Altos and seven Mountain View SWAT team members participated in the training, Mountain View police spokeswoman Katie Nelson told the Town Crier via email. Such training sessions take place once a month, Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea added.

For last month’s training, exercises were customized to the layout of the community center.

“Emphasis was placed on exterior team movement throughout the community center, physical breaching of windows and doors, Hostage Rescue Training and the silent removal of barricaded or wounded victims,” Nelson said.

The training also involved practicing with the SWAT team’s tactical robot, which helps the team “ascertain best practices on how to enter a particular area, if there is a threat, if people are wounded and how to best get them out safely,” Nelson said. The robot recently acted as an asset when the MV-LA SWAT team was dispatched to provide aid to the Palo Alto Police Department’s SWAT team during a standoff Aug. 3. Although ultimately shot down by the suspect, the robot afforded the team an initial look at the situation unfolding inside a residence where a victim was at risk.

Putting experience to use

Palo Alto resident Adam Allen Smith, 29, was arrested upon surrendering 29 hours after Palo Alto officers were called to his home because he had allegedly attempted to strangle his girlfriend. When Smith barricaded himself inside with a gun, the MV-LA SWAT team provided six hours of relief to the Palo Alto SWAT team as officers positioned themselves outside and awaited signs of the gunman.

Police arrested Smith on charges of domestic violence and assault, resisting arrest, possession of a large-capacity magazine, failure to register a handgun and, for shooting at the robot used to assess the situation inside the home, felony vandalism and malicious and willful discharge of a firearm at an inhabited dwelling.

Members of the MV-LA SWAT team told Town Crier staff writer Megan V. Winslow that this was just one of their many missions when she reported on the standoff in August. Two months prior, the team arrested three auto burglary suspects by surrounding the trio’s vehicle and forcing it to stop as it traveled down San Antonio Road toward the El Camino Real intersection.

The team has also served search warrants related to gang and illegal firearm activity in East Palo Alto, protected Super Bowl 50 attendees and provided security detail for former President Barack Obama when he visited the Mountain View Walmart in 2014.

The team’s work is just another layer of public service provided on top of their regular roles.

To read more about the August standoff and the team’s training and selection process, visit

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