Marco's 2nd Apprehension involved: Frigid Cold, a Track and a compliment; from the Suspect
The Bowling Alley
It was only weeks later after Marco’s first “catch” that Marco got to prove himself all over again. I was called out by the dispatch that the GIPD had a possible burglar inside of a local bowling alley. The dispatcher told me a few details as I lay in bed around 4:30 AM. All she knew was that the GIPD believed someone had been hiding in the Westside Lanes/Huddle Lounge and when confronted by PD officers, he escaped and was now outside somewhere. So it had quickly changed from a burglar in a building to tracking the suspect with PSD (Police
Service Dog) Marco. Drug interdiction
I wondered if Marco would come through. Tracking suspects is sometimes difficult for Police Dogs. Ours weren't trained to sniff for human scent like a bloodhound works. No, our police dogs smelled the ground and sniffed for ground disturbance odors. In other words the ground actually smells different when someone walks on it and it’s not the human odor. The grass smells different that is walked on. The snow smells different, the gravel even smells different. But this odor difference doesn't last forever so I quickly dressed and sped off in my squad car.
My first squad as a PSD Handler was a 1990 Ford Crown Victoria. The rear seat had been removed and a dog kennel especially made for police dogs was in the rear area. As I sped to the bowling alley, Marco stuck his head out the opening right beside my right shoulder. Marco was fired-up as he could tell my overhead red and blue emergency lights were on as they reflected off everything outside the squad car. Had I turned the siren on, then Marco would be too riled up. The siren drove Marco crazy. So I only turned that on and just in short spurts when someone got in my way as I sped to the Bowling alley. Quickly I arrived at the Westside Lanes alley/lounge. This bowling alley was only a half block from the our agencies office. It was located near the west side of Grand Island with businesses to the east and south and farm fields to the west.
When I arrived I saw four GIPD units and one was Pete Kortum. Pete was a sergeant for the Grand Island Police Department and had called me out the first time Marco caught someone for the local police agency. He saw me turn into the parking lot and approached my squad. “We got another one for ya’ Greg.” he said. “Hope we can help” I replied back. Pete quickly briefed me that in the middle of the night an alarm had gone off inside the bowling alley. He said officers arrived and searched the bowling alley locating no one and there was no sign of entry. So they figured it was probably just a false alarm. Was this a false alarm? We would have to see. Pete said that after the officers left the first time locating no one, they were soon called back there around 2 AM when the alarm again sounded.
Police officers again searched and couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary inside or out of the bowling alley. “Around 4 AM, the morning janitor had arrived for work and confronted a person inside...this guy tried to escape out the door but it was locked by the janitor to make sure no one came inside while he was working. “…then the mope grabs a bowling ball and threw it through the glass door.” Pete explained. “The ball smashed through the door and he got out…then he fled outside and headed towards that large grove of trees (that was to the north of the bowling alley).” Pete said pointing to the trees.
Pete explained this all to me as I anxiously got Marco out of the squad car. Marco was as excited as me. It was our first actual “track” of a suspect. Would Marco be able to locate the guy? “Stay behind me about fifteen feet away and watch ahead of the dog…don’t watch the dog.” I told Pete. I explained to him that I needed him as my second set of eyes because I was going to be busy trying to watch Marco. So Pete had to be my backup. He had to watch for the suspect. Too often backup officers want to watch the police dog. It’s natural. But the backup needs to be there to save the dog handler’s life. Too often K-9 handlers are shot, stabbed or assaulted as a suspect takes an easy shot at them while the dog is following the track. We told all the officers to watch for the suspect as we started the track. “We probably will flush him out to you guys somewhere if he’s still in here. He probably ain’t but maybe we’ll get lucky” I said.
An officer showed me the last place the suspect was seen. It was easy to know where it was. The ground was still partially covered with snow so the tall grass had snow in areas and grass in others. The officer plainly showed me the last footprint of the suspect in the snow. I laid the thirty foot leash on the ground in front of Marco who was lying still looking around tentatively. This is the “ritual” of starting the track. The dog knows that he’s supposed to track the footprints by the seeing the tracking line lying on the ground in front of him. The “ritual” also consists of talking to Marco using the word “Zook” repeatedly which means "track" in German.
I hooked up the long leash to Marco’s collar and when commanded to ‘zook’, Marco took off in a blaze with his nose to the ground sniffing footprint to footprint. Marco was pulling so hard on the leash that it takes usually two hands to keep the dog from getting away. I was also holding onto a flashlight trying to see where we were going in the dark cold air. Marco led Pete and me into the cedar trees and soon Marco turned left and led us out of the trees, through a small ditch and onto a gravel road. It was cold as hell and I could see Marco’s breath in the cold air. He was breathing heavy and pulling even harder on the thirty foot leash. We were now to the northeast of the bowling alley and as soon as we got to the gravel road partially covered in hard frozen snow and ice, Marco turned right still with his nose on the ground. His tail was straight up and ‘flagging’ which is the same as wagging except it doesn’t move as much. We were heading north straight down the gravel road now and after about forty yards Marco changed directions again taking a hard right turn and headed me and Pete right back into the grove of cedar trees. He was tracking where this mope had been foot step for foot step.
After Marco re-entered the trees we made it about fifty feet or so still tracking and then I heard this growling and yelling noise. Human yelling. The leash was now slack and I ran up the leash to the area of all the noise with my gun and flashlight out soon locating Marco attached to a guys arm. In the darkness I shone my powerful Mag-lite flashlight on the area. The light danced through the branches and I could see the struggle. I yelled the commands “Stand still! Hands up! Plotz!” Marco let go of the guys arm and immediately laid down. This command I yelled does two things. It tells the bad guy what to do and ‘Plotz’ tells the dog to release and lay down. This happens all at once hopefully. Pete moved in towards the guy and quickly handcuffed him. Pete stood the guy up and brushed snow off him then patted him down for any weapons. He didn't have any but while we were tracking for him, we didn’t know this. We had to consider that he was armed. I kept Marco at bay by holding onto his leash. Marco was barking repeatedly as if saying, “I got ya, and I bit ya, and I want ya back.” The guy was escorted out of the trees back to the gravel road and back to our squad cars in the parking lot.
All the officers knew we were coming with the suspect and they were waiting near our squad car’s as we arrived. Smiles were on everyone’s faces as we showed up. I told the suspect to stop before he got into a PD squad car so I could look at his arm. He had a long sleeve coat on but I could tell by looking, that Marco had bit him up. The jacket sleeve was torn and the blood looked almost black in the dark night. I told Pete we needed to take him to the hospital and I would meet them up there. These were the days before the real AIDS/HIV information that keeps everyone away from blood like it is now. So the suspect was put in the back of the squad car still bleeding and getting blood on the hard plastic cop car seat. Even in the parking lot Marco was still fired up. His tail was wagging and he was jumping up and down.
Once we got to the officers in the parking lot, Marco who was still riled-up ran up to several of them and acted as though he wanted them to scratch his head. He was still just a dog, and dog's love attention. He just wanted some attention. All the officers rubbed his head and scratched his ears and praised him up just as I had after Marco had caught the guy.-- I was proud---