Patrol Dog Saves the Lives of Deputies During Stand-Off
Rick is a German Shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix who works the night shift with Deputy Raleigh Stokes of the Greenville County (SC) Sheriff’s Department. The dog has made many heroic actions to fight crime in the community, but in November 2017, he went above the call of duty to save officers’ lives.
Three hours into his shift on a quiet November night, the call of a high-speed chase crackled over Deputy Raleigh Stokes’ radio.
The officer told his partner, K-9 Officer Rick, to hold on and turned his patrol car towards the trouble.
As the pursuit neared the city limits of Greenville, SC, the suspect lost control of his vehicle. The car slid into a building. What occurred next was every law enforcement officer’s worst nightmare. The suspect emerged from his vehicle, armed with a pistol.
Stokes and his fellow deputies worked for more than an hour to come to a peaceful end to the conflict, but the man would not surrender.
Stokes knew Rick had a chance of subduing the suspect, but he also realized it was very dangerous. The German Shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix had distinguished himself on numerous occasions as one of the best patrol dogs in the region.
The deputies decided to use a distraction device and send in Rick. The device was thrown, and Rick charged. He immediately grabbed the suspect’s left arm. As fate would have it, the pistol was in the right hand.
For a moment, the suspect’s attention turned from the deputies and focused on Rick. As hard as Rick was gripping the left arm, the man was trying just as hard to get away. The suspect gained the advantage and was able to pull away from the bite. As he did so, Rick immediately did what he was trained; he attempted to regain control over the suspect.
Just as Rick’s muzzle hit the man’s chest, the sounds of gunfire pierced the air.
Deputies, who had seen the pistol aimed in their direction, fired at the suspect to save their own lives. The rounds struck the suspect within inches of Rick’s head. The man fell, with Rick still holding on. Deputies quickly began providing medical treatment to the suspect, and Stokes frantically checked Rick for injuries. Somehow, some way, Rick was not harmed.
A short time after the 2017 incident, Stokes said “God was watching over us out there, and there is no doubt in my mind that Rick saved our lives tonight.”
Rick’s heroism earned him an ACE Nomination in the annual AKC Awards of Canine Excellence in 2018.
“He had done his job even better than trained. He had gone above and beyond what any canine handler could expect of their partner,” said Capt. Tim Jones of the Greenville County Sheriff’s Department.
Stokes and 6-year-old Rick have been partners for more than two years. The sheriff’s department obtained Rick through the generosity of the Greenville Kennel Club, which donated $7,500 for the dog’s purchase.
The club has been a major supporter of local law enforcement canine units with an emphasis on the Greenville County Sheriff’s Department, which operates a canine training program for a nine-state region. The kennel club’s support has included purchasing dogs and equipment and helping fund the production of small first aid kits K9 officers can carry on their vests.
“The department was in need of a dog that fit Rick’s profile and did not have the funds, so the kennel club made his purchase possible,” said Gloria Askins, Delegate of the Greenville Kennel Club. “Rick has gone on to be the one of their best dogs, immediately earning his keep.”
Rick is trained to track and detect evidence, including drugs and guns, as well as perform protection work. His statistics, as of mid-2018, were impressive and showed he helped in the arrest of 88 people and protected his handler in 156 instances. He had uncovered 845.92 grams cocaine, 258.08 grams marijuana, 34.50 grams methamphetamine, 7.01 grams crack, and 2.60 grams heroin. He took five guns off the street and seized $62,413 in currency.
The shepherd mix was imported from the Czech Republic and completed a 600-hour training class before being placed into service. Even though Rick received excellent early training, the canine continues to train on a regular basis to keep his skills strong.
“We train one day every week for a total of 40 hours a month. We train in different locations each week to keep the canines and handlers sharp, not complacent,” Stokes said.
The Greenville County Sheriff’s K9 team works with Sgt. Douglas Wannemacher, a North American Police Work Dog Association master trainer, and Sgt. Matthew Lovelace, a North American Police Work Dog Association trainer.
“They have combined our training into scenario-based training that puts not only the canine but the hander into situations where action must be taken in order to complete the drill,” Stokes said. “This real-world training combined with hard work and dedication is what makes our team successful.”
Stokes and Rick work the night shift, assisting patrol teams with incidents ranging from armed robberies to fights.
“Rick has tracked down several suspects who have run on foot from their crimes and located several firearms and various narcotics that suspects have tossed or dropped while evading arrest.”
Rick works hard, but he does get off-duty time. He goes home with Stokes every day when their shift ends.
“Rick enjoys having days off. I spend several hours with him playing fetch, running with him, and allowing him to just be a dog,” Stokes said.