Arrest of Otis McKane a ‘high-risk operation,’ SWAT officers testify

Aerial surveillance footage shown to jury in Day 8 of McKane’s capital murder trial

View this recap from Day 8 of the Otis McKane capital murder trial.
View this recap from Day 8 of the Otis McKane capital murder trial.

SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: KSAT is livestreaming the entire trial of Otis McKane here. Get a daily recap like this one sent to your inbox by signing up for the free Open Court newsletter.

Members of the San Antonio Police Department SWAT team testified Wednesday in the capital murder trial of Otis McKane about the tactics that led to the arrest of the defendant for the execution-style killing of Det. Benjamin Marconi.

SAPD Officer Daniel Elborne was the first member of the team to testify for the prosecution.

Elborne said nearly the entire SWAT squad was involved in what he called a “high-risk” operation the day McKane was arrested.

SWAT officers were tasked to conduct surveillance on a car that McKane was believed to be in near the Lincoln Courts on the West Side, where he and his wife lived, Elborne said.

SAPD Officer Daniel Elborne was the first member of the team to testify for the prosecution.
SAPD Officer Daniel Elborne was the first member of the team to testify for the prosecution.

But the team was forced to make a quick move when a Department of Public Safety airplane that was conducting surveillance for SAPD located a Buick that McKane may have been in at a convenience store on the far East Side.

When the aerial surveillance showed a man who fit the description of the suspect get into the driver’s seat of the Buick and leave the store, the SWAT team then positioned their vehicles to near Interstate 10 and FM 1516 for the take down, Elborne testified.

Positioned in the lead vehicle was Christopher Zygmont, another member of the SWAT team, and the first officer to find Marconi slumped in his patrol unit the day prior.

“As we started to creep up to the intersection to make the turn, we realized we were staring right at the suspect vehicle and the suspect driving the vehicle,” Zygmont testified. “Me and my partner, we made a decision, ‘We got to go.’ So, we turned into the vehicle, parked in front of it and exited our vehicle.”

Zygmont and his partner then allowed a line of officers to catch up and formed a line to approach the Buick. Armed with a rifle, Zygmont approached the car and gave commands to McKane through the window, telling him to put his hands on his face.

Christopher Zygmont, SAPD SWAT testifies in the Otis McKane trial.
Christopher Zygmont, SAPD SWAT testifies in the Otis McKane trial.

Elborne testified that he deployed a diversion device, which emitted a loud bang and flash. He said the device is used to keep a suspect off guard and prevent him from attacking officers and take everyone into custody safely.

Elborne told jurors he then opened the driver’s side door and unbuckled McKane out of the seat and ordered him to the ground to be taken to a police unit and driven downtown for questioning.

“Very minimal force (was used), and the suspect was compliant at all times,” Elborne testified. He added that McKane didn’t complain of any injuries, didn’t resist arrest or make threats toward officers.

Sgt. Steven Miller, of the DPS Aircraft Operations Division, testified that he was the camera operator in the plane that conducted the aerial surveillance.

Miller said the video he shot was taken from 12,500 feet high and three miles away from the scene. He added that airplanes, instead of helicopters, are used in situations where police don’t want to tip off suspects of their aerial presence.

McKane could face the death penalty if he is found guilty.

The trial will resume at 1 p.m. Thursday. You can watch every moment live on KSAT in this article.

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About the Authors:

David Ibañez has been managing editor of KSAT.com since the website's launch in October 2000.

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with more than 12 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter.