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PSD MARCO service 10/1992-6/2001
|True Stories of Marco's Greatest
Apprehensions and Drug Arrests
"The Cold, Long Snow
One “catch” that Marco received a special award called the
Superintendent’s Group Citation was for an apprehension on a cold late
evening. Marco did a winter track with an apprehension at the end of the
track after a failure by the suspect to comply with my commands.
Marco had always been a really good tracker. He had made several
successful tracks of suspects during his job as a K-9; from the guy who
fled into a cornfield who had a pretty sweet setup with an elaborate
marijuana harvesting operation in northern Hall County to another guy
that had fled on foot from some of our drug agents who were trying to
arrest him on a warrant for some drug sales.
This first guy with the marijuana harvesting operation had arose some
suspicion while driving a bicycle down a county road and then when a
local resident confronted him, he literally picked up the bicycle and threw
it across the fence into a fully grown cornfield. He wasn't a huge large
scale criminal but did have a pretty nice one-man harvesting setup he had
been pretty successful on.
Soon the Airwing 's aircraft arrived and Marco and myself along with the
constant backup of George started a track at the last known spot
this guy was seen. Marco was immediately on the track and we were soon
in the 9 foot-tall corn stalks tracking this guy. It was hot, muggy and
downright miserable. Log story short, with Marco tight on this guys track,
we flushed him out of the field and he then ran across the road and then
into an adjacent cornfield.
The aircraft spotted him as he fled the field crossing the county road
and right back into another field so we soon followed. After we entered
the other field, Marco again got right on this guys track. When we were
about 300 yards inside the field Marco located the guy who must have
figured we were hot on his heels and instead of continuing to run away he
stopped and then tried to hide himself lying on the ground under some
cornstalks. That guy wasn’t so lucky.
The night Marco was successful in the cold winter snow field started out
in our Headquarters Troop Area located in the Capitol city of Lincoln and
the area is a fifteen county area. A suspect wanted out of Texas on
several Sexual Assaults of a Child offenses as well as a weapons violation
was in our area the Patrol learned.
Ralph Hurkey had been located in our state on the eastern edge of my
Area but still inside the Headquarters area in Seward County. He had
been located by good old fashioned police work on behalf of our agency
and the authorities in Texas. The HDQ SWAT had been assembled with
intelligence he was hiding out in a rural farm residence in Seward County.
With surveillance on the farm soon arriving and the HDQ SWAT soon to
make their entry, no one was aware that some way this guy had slipped
away less than 30 minutes before the surveillance had arrived.
So the flash-bangs and tactical entry was all for not but soon after
interviewing the suspects inside the rural farmstead, it was learned that
the wanted man had relocated to another farm around twenty miles
away. This time the home that he was allegedly in was in our Area; but
with an already assembled SWAT team it only made sense for them to try
and get this guy at the second home. Unfortunately just before they
arrived he had again slipped away but this time on foot. He had been
Since I was Team Leader for our central C Team I soon received a
phone call from our dispatch center. I was home enjoying a scheduled day
off and was advised of a callout requesting our SWAT Team to assist the
HDQ Team. I didn’t receive a lot of information but was told the team
needed to assemble rapidly because of a guy that had fled on foot. There
was no request for Marco but that’s probably because it’s a ‘given’ that
when called out for whatever capacity, a dog-handler always should have
his dog with him.
So after I quickly got dressed, I ran to the outside kennel and retrieved Marco. He
saw I was running and he immediately became excited. I unlocked the kennel and he
immediately ran out running right to my Patrol unit. I opened the tailgate to my truck
and then unlocking the rear door to his patrol/kennel he jumped in. We were off. I
had learned we were to meet just off U.S. Highway 81 over in York County. This was
not far and I knew I would be there before the rest of the Team who mainly resided in
the Grand Island area.
When I got within five miles from the Interchange on Interstate 80 that
junctions with U.S. 81, I got a call from Sgt. Mike . Mike was our
Head Dog trainer and the first words out of his mouth were, “Hey Go, (my
nickname) you got Marco?” “Yep” I answered and Mike explained this guy
had fled on foot out the back of a farmhouse and the HDQ guys were
holding tight for the dog.
When I showed up near U.S. 81 I was directed to the farm which was
about five minutes from the interchange.
I arrived and soon was getting briefed by Sgt. Russ who is a good friend of
mine and at the time was the TL (Team Leader) for the HDQ Team. He said this guy
was most likely armed and that a request for the Air-Wings helicopter had been made.
He said that the pilots said they would be there as quick as possible but they were
gonna have to switch out the FLIR (Forward Looking In-fraRed) device from one of the
Air-Wings fixed wing planes to the Bell helicopter.
Russ also said this guy was someway getting information that we were after him from
the first residence so he was hell-bent on getting away. Only thing was, that this was
a Texas boy and we were right now in the heart of a cold Nebraska winter. It had
snowed eight inches two days before and the area he had fled into was nothing but
snow covered rural Nebraska. We didn’t think the Texas guy would last long in this
kind of climate but we knew we had to find him then deal with his condition.
As soon as I had gotten the briefing from Russ with Mike standing there I was told
that three of my Team members were within fifteen minutes from arriving. I decided to
wait that crucial fifteen minutes for my guys to work the area with Marco and myself
along with a partial amount from HDQ’s Team.
I knew the guys on their way were George , Buck and Jeff . Like I have
said before, George was constantly around in the years I had Marco. Buck is a real
good friend of mine and at the time he was a new dog handler with the PSD division
and Jeff was practically a neighbor of mine who was new on the Team but an excellent
Operator. So once they all arrived, I briefed them and then took the members from
HDQ’s Team to include Frank . Frank’s been a great friend of mine since 1992 when
I first met him in October ‘92 at Dog camp. That was when he and I spent hundred of
hours for weeks and weeks as a couple of the newest dog handlers.
I told Frank that I would start Marco on a track with his Team members on my left
and my Team on my right while we worked in a wedge formation having Frank in the
middle of the wedge and myself and Marco up on the top. A wedge is actually a “V,
but upside down. So Marco and me were the tip of the upside “V” and the team
members were the sides with good old Frank in the middle calling out our direction of
travel and movements to the command post.
As soon as we got started from the back of the farm residence where Hurkey had
fled, Marco was “on it”. We started the track and moved over terrain of all sorts. We
were going through pastures, over roadways and through tree lines. All the time we
did this, we were traversing over snow that at times was gone (on the roadways-they
were just ice now) to snow that was several inches to literally snow that was several
feet deep. The deep snow was when Hurkey would find culverts (tunnels) under the
roads which the ditches would be filled with deep snow.
We started heading now towards a farmstead a mile away. As we got close we had
to cross several fences and eventually saw it was a farm that had several large grain
bins, a large barn and several feedlots. But there were no signs of activity. No
livestock and no home to speak of. Just another typical farm of the past that no one
resided at but the land was still farmed. It looked as though the farm was in fairly good
shape it just was mainly a storage place for farm machinery in the barn and the
feedlots looked as thought they had recently had livestock with trampled snow
But once we were on the property, Marco didn’t track towards the barn or the grain
bins. Instead he tracked to a fence we had to cross and then Marco went along the
side of a fence line towards a ditch that had trees sporadically along what was probably
a dried up creek bed. Marco tracked right to a small cedar tree and started to alert all
over it. The cedar was only about five foot tall and looked broken down. It was almost
bent over. But Marco was all over it sniffing and hunting. I told the team to really
keep their eyes open because Marco was very excited now.
But soon Marco was off on the track from this tree back towards an open
field. We knew we were on the track very often because of the footprints
we would see in the snow. But many times these footprints would be
covered because the snow was blowing. Yes, we have wind here in
Nebraska, and when you combine that with cold air and snow, it makes
life a little hard. So we were in the middle of this cold weather tracking
this guy and had now been at it for almost fifty minutes.
One time Marco tracked down a rural roadway until he started to go off
the side and we saw there were deep foot prints and we knew we were
over top of a culvert. We knew Hurkey had fled under here, so the plan
was simple: Yell out the commands for the suspect to show himself or
respond, or, the dog was coming on down. So I briefed the command
post via Frank and the team members to be ready. Then I yelled “Sound
off or I’ll send in the dog!” this was repeated several times and these
commands always excited Marco so he knew what was next. No more
tracking, its criminal catching time. I released Marco from the long thirty
foot tracking lead and he ran down the hill into the dark tunnel and we
heard nothing. I recalled Marco and he came back and I redeployed him.
This was in case the guy was in the culvert hiding somewhere.
Again, nothing was heard, and I again recalled Marco. We then tactically entered the
culvert. This one was almost six foot tall, ten feet long and about fifteen wide. Hurkey
wasn’t here but he sure had been. We found a partial cigarette lying on the snow and
we couldn’t believe this guy was stopping to take a smoke break.
This was getting exhausting and cold and frustrating. But soon the
helicopter had arrived from its base location of Lincoln. As the helicopter
arrived it watched the Team for some time and saw from where the track
had originated (the farm house) and where we were currently at, and saw
the general direction of travel. The direction of travel was by far not any
straight line. But it was in a south easterly direction. So the helicopter
scanned ahead and their scan hit pay-dirt!
The helicopter was being piloted by my good friend Ron Rife. He was
assisted by Air-wing sergeant John “Johnny O”. Ron had been in the
agency for many years with him being on the C SWAT years earlier. Ron
had been on our Team and it was nothing but a pleasure working with
him. So when I knew he was in the “bird” I knew from experience what
Ron would do to help his fellow coppers.
As Ron and Johnny O flew up ahead they soon spotted a “hot spot”
along the side of a road. They watched it from a distance zooming in the
magnification and soon saw what they had figured. It was him.
Hurkey had a dug himself a “snow cave” in a twenty foot tall snow pile.
The snow pile was up higher than the road on both sides and went for
hundreds of yards along the sides of the road. The snow pile was the
result of large snow-blade machinery having to come in to clear the
roads. This particular area of the road was in a low spot that would
“drift” over with deep snow. So the pile of snow made a place for Hurkey
to try and hide.
After the helicopter identified that they had located him, we were picked
up in several vehicles that were following or paralleling us as we moved.
So we now were brought by vehicles close to the “hot spot”. As we were
guided into the pitch-dark, cold air to the location, we slowly climbed the
hill of snow. We were not exactly sure of the suspect’s location and the
helicopter had not illuminated his location with the ‘night-sun’ at our
Once we climbed to the top of the snow hill we were actually on top of
another field. So we crossed a fence and as I came in wide ‘slicing the
pie’ to the area, I saw the cave. I started to yell commands “Let me see
your hands!” I yelled this several times but he showed no hands. I could
barely see him lying back in the cave on his back. I then yelled I was
going to send a police dog in if he didn’t show his hands. He still
refused. So Marco was deployed in the hole and soon latched onto
Hurkey's right thigh and then transitioned his bite to Hurkey's arm.
Now that Marco was apprehending him, I knew we were not going to
move in to that position but would actually “bring them to us”. Marco was
just one of a handful of our dogs that was SWAT certified. That meant he
had been able to do many other things in the realm of patrol work that all
of our dogs had not been exposed to.
One of those facets was a technique called “drag-line’ training. This is
where the dog is pulled back towards the handler by the long line. But
the object is that this is done after the dog has made a physical
apprehension. This is used in a dangerous situation and takes a very
strong dog because the force is working in two directions on the dog. The
force of the leash being pulled (usually by two people) and the weight of
the suspect that the dog is attached to by the dog attached with his
So I pulled Marco with one hand and my gun out trained on the suspect
with my other hand. Soon, seeing that my fellow Team members were
covering him, I holstered my sidearm and then used both hands and
pulled on Marco. As I pulled Marco, this drug Marco backwards which drug
Hurkey out of the hole. Buck went in for the apprehension while Marco
was still attached to Hurkey’s arm.
This is another facet of the SWAT certification with the dog. Being able
to work in close confines with other officers while still on task. I called
Marco off the bite and he soon released, but there was fence in between
Hurkey and myself. This caused Marco to get snagged on the barbwire
fence resulting in an injury to Marco. Marco snagged his thigh on the
sharp barb. Later that evening Marco would need five staples in his thigh
to close the wound. I soon was praising Marco as Buck reached in for the
apprehension of Hurkey placing him in handcuffs.
Hurkey was soon transported to the hospital back in York where
Investigator Bob interviewed him about his fleeing to Nebraska after
his charges in Texas. I arrived at the York hospital to do my own
interview of Hurkey.
He was in one of the treatment rooms in the ER and he was still
shivering. He had said that he fled and didn’t know the area so he didn’t
really no where to go. He admitted though along his route he had came
to rest in a small cedar tree by sitting practically on top of it in a
farmyard and also that he had fled underneath a culvert . He stated that
he did this to rest as he was running almost the entire way he was
I had not been able to really speak with Hurkey until almost and hour
after arriving at the hospital. The doctor said that Hurkey’s’ body
temperature had dropped to 92 degrees when he had been brought in and
said it had probably been lower but knew that SWAT members had
provided heat to him once he had been put inside one of the command
post vehicles. The doctor said that most likely Hurkey would have died in
the snow cave had he not been found. He explained that Hurkey was in
stage 2 of hypothermia and was going to be kept overnight at the
hospital. Hurkey was also treated for the bite wounds he sustained.
Hurkey was lucky in many ways that cold night in York County Nebraska.
He was lucky he didn’t die in a snow hole but more than that; he was
lucky it was Marco called to the task of finding him. Marco came through
in a big way on this apprehension. And it made all of us happy.
|Millions of Vehicles will pass you by
during your career... Many of them with
criminal activity...Will you do
something about it?