AUSTIN -- Imagine flying a helicopter and looking down to see a man with a gun pointed directly at you. For Austin Police Department pilot Ryan Miller, that’s exactly what happened last February.
A woman in a Southwest Austin neighborhood called 9-1-1 to report her neighbor was outside around with a weapon.
"There's a gentleman outside my house a few minutes ago shooting a .22 caliber rifle with a homemade suppressor at my street light,” the caller told the operator.
Immediately, APD’s helicopter Air One was dispatched as SWAT officers arrived on scene.
"We're here to support the officers on the ground, that's our main goal to help keep them as safe as possible as well as the public,” said Miller, describing the events of that night to KVUE.
Thermal video shows the man on the ground walking around as the aircraft flies over his home.
Mere seconds after arriving on scene, the man begins to fire his gun toward Air One.
"He's shooting right now. Oh, he's shooting at us!” said Miller in the video audio, as he is piloting the plane.
"That night he was tracking the aircraft. He could see us very clearly,” Miller told KVUE.
In the video you can see the shell casings as the weapon is fired again. But Miller's years in the cockpit prepared him for the worst, and he immediately began adjusting the helicopter.
"He's behind trees and I'm purposely maneuvering the aircraft to try and keep the trees between him and us to minimize the likelihood of him being able to hit us,” Miller said.
Still the shots continued, and Miller remained calm, turning out any light to try and make it harder for the shooter to track the helicopter as SWAT officers got into position on the ground.
"The aircraft is a moving target and a little bit harder to hit, we figured it was better for him to try to shoot at us to get ground resources in place," Miller said
APD sniper Luke Serrato, equipped with night vision aimed at the shooter from the ground as Miller’s co-pilot warned him “he’s leaning on the john boat."
The shooter, 27-year old Sawyer Flache was killed was Serrato’s bullet.
“He took that shot to defend my life, that's a big thing to me,” Miller said.
No officers were hurt but the helicopter had damage to the rotor blades that took several days to repair.
The Airborne Law Enforcement Association honored Officer Ryan Miller and his copilot for their work with the prestigious Captain 'Gus' Crawford Aircrew of the Year Award in 2015.