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Have you seen ‘Chopper Cops’? First episode highlights MCSO manhunt, 100-mph chase

The first episode of a new series on Paramount+ that follows the Marion County Sheriff’s Office highlights the agency’s efforts to track down a man wanted for shooting a cop and arrest a different man who led them on a high-speed chase.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is the subject of a new, 10-episode series that recently premiered on Paramount+, and it highlights the agency’s personnel and state-of-the-art aircraft.

Chopper Cops, which premiered on June 18, follows the members of the MCSO Air-1 helicopter team as they encounter dangerous and life-threatening situations. The first episode of the season, titled “Air-1,” focuses on two separate incidents involving suspects who fled from law enforcement.

Episode 1, Season 1 – Suspect flees after shooting Eustis police officer in Lake County

On December 19, 2019, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office was informed that a police officer from Eustis had been shot by a suspect. The gunman – later identified as Jayson Colvin – had fled on foot, and MCSO’s help was requested in locating him.

The incident began at around 12:15 p.m. that afternoon, when Eustis Police Captain Gary Winheim pulled over Colvin after hearing gunshots near a Shell gas station on N State Road 19. Moments later, Captain Winheim was shot.

At the time of the incident, Colvin had seven violent felony convictions and had spent 13 of the last 15 years in prison.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies quickly located Colvin’s truck as he attempted to flee from the scene of the shooting. Colvin proceeded to abandon his vehicle in a rural junkyard and continued fleeing on foot.

Over 500 law enforcement officers from five agencies, including MCSO, arrived in the area where Colvin was last seen. During an interview, Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell said that his greatest fear was that the search for Colvin was going to extend into the night, since “it becomes even more dangerous at night.”

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office reached out to MCSO for “mutual aid.” Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods stated that, “When we get a call from a fellow sheriff and asking for something, my immediate answer is, ‘They’re on their way. Just tell me what exactly it is you need, how many you need, [and] they’re coming.’”

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods in Chopper Cops, episode 1, season 1, streaming on Paramount+. (Photo: CBS/Paramount+)
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods in Chopper Cops, episode 1, season 1, streaming on Paramount+. (Photo: CBS/Paramount+)

MCSO’s Air-1 helicopter unit flies with two Command Pilots – one who operates the aircraft while the other serves as the Tactical Flight Officer. The helicopter’s camera system, called FLIR (forward-looking infrared camera), is capable of detecting the heat of an object, which helps deputies find suspects in the dark.

A still image from Chopper Cops, episode 1, season 1, streaming on Paramount+, showing two of the MCSO Air-1 unit's Command Pilots. (Photo: CBS/Paramount+)
A still image from Chopper Cops, episode 1, season 1, streaming on Paramount+, showing two of the MCSO Air-1 unit’s Command Pilots. (Photo: CBS/Paramount+)

During the search for Colvin on December 19, 2019, the Air-1 unit conducted an aerial search of the area, including nearby houses and yards, and they soon spotted a canoe with a “heat source” detected underneath it. The unit focused on the canoe and observed that the heat source was coming from a “subject with a backpack.”

Command Pilots using night vision goggles in Chopper Cops, episode 1, season 1, streaming on Paramount+. (Photo: CBS/Paramount+)
Command Pilots using night vision goggles in Chopper Cops, episode 1, season 1, streaming on Paramount+. (Photo: CBS/Paramount+)

MCSO’s Air-1 helicopter had “about an hour of fuel” remaining, and a SWAT team was requested to approach the suspect near the canoe. When the SWAT team arrived, the Air-1 unit directed them towards the canoe.

While focusing on the canoe, Air-1 crews got a clear look at Colvin, confirming that he matched the description of the shooter. As the SWAT team began closing in on Colvin, he was observed moving away from the canoe with a gun in his hand before running eastbound.

The SWAT team split into three teams to cover more ground while pursuing Colvin. The Air-1 unit utilized a spotlight on Colvin, which caused him to stop moving, and Air-1 directed the SWAT team towards his location.

As the SWAT team neared his location, Colvin attempted to crawl away from them while still holding a firearm. He then proceeded to shoot at the SWAT team, and they returned fire.

Colvin was struck by gunfire, and he was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced deceased. The SWAT team members were unharmed.

“I truly believed, after having a chance to take everything in, that as a result of Air-1 being there, that they saved a life,” said Lake County Sheriff Grinnell. “A life of one of mine, if not more lives.”

Despite being shot in the neck by Colvin, Captain Wilheim survived, and he returned to work a month later.

Marion Sheriff Woods stated that he is “proud of the men that are the pilots and the observers who are out there working. It just elevates our county to another level.”

Episode 1, Season 1 – Suspect leads MCSO deputy on 100-mph chase in stolen pickup truck

On May 17, 2023, MCSO Deptuy Ashton Welfenberg spotted a blue Toyota Tundra at a local Circle K that matched the description of a truck that had recently been reported stolen. As she began following the pickup truck, the driver accelerated to speeds of around 105 miles per hour in an attempt to flee from the deputy.

A pursuit of the pickup truck was initiated, and assistance from the MCSO Air-1 unit was requested.

Another deputy in the area placed spike strips on the roadway, which punctured two of the pickup truck’s tires. Deputy Welfenberg then successfully conducted a P.I.T. (Precision Immobilization Technique) maneuver, though the pickup truck was able to recover and continued fleeing.

Deputy Welfenberg noticed that the pickup truck had two occupants: a male driver and female passenger. Referring to the passenger, the deputy stated, “You don’t know if she’s a victim or if she’s a suspect.”

After a 10-minute high-speed pursuit, Air-1 arrived in the area and quickly located the pickup truck. Sparks were “coming off of rims” as the truck continued to flee at speeds exceeding 70 miles per hour.

A second P.I.T. maneuver was attempted by Deputy Welfenberg, which was unsuccessful, and the pickup truck traveled onto Maricamp Road. Air-1 informed the deputy that the road up ahead was clear, and a third P.I.T. maneuver was conducted by the deputy.

The impact from the collision caused Deputy Welfenberg’s patrol vehicle to go airborne, and the pickup truck rolled onto its side. Deputies quickly surrounded the pickup truck with their firearms drawn.

Russell Kane Kornegay (Marion County Jail booking photo taken on May 17, 2023)
Russell Kane Kornegay (Marion County Jail booking photo taken on May 17, 2023)

The deputies utilized a tool to remove a portion of the pickup truck’s windshield, and they managed to pull the male driver from the vehicle after tasering him. He was identified as Russell Kane Kornegay, and he was arrested and transported to Marion County Jail on the following charges: vehicle theft, resisting an officer, fleeing to elude a law enforcement officer, drug possession, and kidnap – false imprisonment of his passenger.

Kornegay was convicted on all charges and sentenced to more than 6 years behind bars.

The female passenger was freed from the pickup truck and transported to a local hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries. She was not charged.

At the conclusion of the premiere episode of Chopper Cops, Deputy Welfenberg stated that she doesn’t often get to speak with the Air-1 unit since they are “thousands of feet apart.” However, she added that “it’s one team, one fight.”

Where to watch Chopper Cops

Chopper Cops is produced by See It Now Studios, Texas Crew Productions, and V1 Productions. The 10-episode series is available to stream in its entirety on Paramount+.