One of the closest bonds a police officer can form is with their partner. A partner is someone that an officer can count on. They know that individual has their back. Partners make sure they both go home at the end of their shift. This is also true for that of officers with canine partners. For many, those canines become part of their families.
Sadly, El Mirage Arizona Police K9 Koki would spend his final moments protecting his partner and other officers from an armed suspect.
The El Mirage Police Department announced Saturday, November 23rd that K9 Koki was shot and killed by a suspect he was in pursuit of that evening.
“The loss of Koki is no different than the loss of a police officer,” El Mirage Police Chief Paul Marzocca told reporters. “Today the El Mirage Police Department mourns Koki, we lost a brother last night.”
In a statement released by the department, officers were attempting to apprehend a suspect, who was later identified as 38-year-old Joe Ruelas. During a press conference it was revealed that officers were looking for Ruelas for a prior incident, where he had allegedly put a knife to a woman’s head and then threatened to kill her.
Ruelas fled from the scene that evening in a truck, running from officers as they tried to apprehend him. Officers engaged in a short vehicle pursuit, but ended up cutting it off shortly after it started.
The police department was given information that the suspect would be returning to his home, so several officers were staged at that location in an attempt to take Ruelas into custody. When officers attempted to apprehend Ruelas, he again ran from police.
A foot pursuit ensued between officers and Ruelas.
K9 Officer Doug Jones and K9 Koki were on scene at the time Ruelas ran. Jones sent his partner K9 Koki into pursuit after Ruelas. Ruelas than began to fire on officers – hitting Koki and killing him. Two El Mirage officers that were in the pursuit returned fire at Ruelas but he escaped the scene.
It is reported that Ruelas was later found dead in a home from an apparent suicide by a single gunshot wound that appeared self-inflicted. Reportedly, another police department has taken over the investigation due to the officer involved shootings.
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Chief Paul Marzocca made a statement on Facebook the night of the incident,
“Tonight we had a very serious situation in our city in which our K9 Koki was killed protecting his fellow officers.”
Koki had served on the El Mirage Police Department force for four years. He was the department’s only canine.
According to The National Police Dog Foundation (NPDF), “K-9s are considered a specialty unit, which means technically they could run a department without them, unlike police cars, police officers, and their training. 80-plus percent of a police department’s budget goes toward salary, and the remaining 20 percent is needed to acquire equipment and training for the officers. There are simply not enough funds for most agencies to include the cost of K-9s and their up-keep in the general budget.”
The actual cost of a canine to be purchased for a department can be anywhere in the range of $8,000-$10,000 and that is only the cost for the dog, that does not include training or maintaining the health and welfare of the canine (like purchasing food or veterinary bills).
The training for a police canine ranges as well on average “for full training in Patrol Work, Detection, and Hard Surface (Urban) Tracking, you can figure the cost to range from $12,000.00 to $15,000.00 total, per dog, depending on the length of each class,” according to The National Police Dog Foundation.
While police departments may be able to function without police canines, having one or more in the ranks of its department is a valuable tool.
LET spoke exclusively to K9 Koki’s handler Officer Doug Jones who has been in law enforcement since 1998 and been a K9 handler for 8 years. Koki is Officer Jones’ second canine partner.
Officer Jones had this to say in regards to the incident as well as his comments on being Koki’s partner and handler:
“My first canine had been medically retired, and I had started looking for a replacement in late 2014 early 2015. I came across a company called K9 Defense who was training their dogs in a new form called operant conditioning training, as opposed to the old-style compulsive training.”
“I decided to work with the company and was paired with Koki when he was 14 months old. Even at 14 months he had so much advanced training, that within three weeks of me getting him he was NNDDA [National Narcotic Detector Dog Association] certified.”
“Koki and I trained with the National Police Canine Association (NPCA) who in my opinion is one of the leading entities on proper certifications and training practices for the deployment of canines based on studies and trainings they have conducted. We also had much of our training together thanks to the facilitation of the Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Association Inc (ALECA)- which without them many of our trainings would not be possible.”
“Koki was just extremely advanced. And such a level headed dog. He could be around children and I just didn’t need to worry about him hurting anyone. He knew when it was time to work. When it came to work, he was extremely focused, he never hesitated when we sent him into the room. It was just something very unique about him.”
“Koki was part of the family. Not only my own family, but especially the police department family.”
“The other officers loved him. When we would get to the department, he would run to the door wanting to get in and once he got inside, he ran from desk to desk saying hello to everyone.”
“One of the primary things I think people should know about canines and their training is that one of their primaries duties is locating. In all of my K9 training I’ve made sure to go beyond that one duty to make sure my canine also knows one of their duties is to protect the officers.”
“There’s a saying that we use in the canine world, “Paws before Boots” and it’s important that people understand and recognize what that means.”
“Compared to human officers, canines are faster, their sense of smell that is phenomenal, they have the ability to alert officers to a hidden suspect well before an officer has to have exposure that that suspect.”
“In the apprehension of a suspect either fleeing or stationary they are remarkably agile and fast at doing it. Faster than human officers’ abilities. They are invaluable.”
When asked what one thing Officer Jones would like people to specially remember about Koki, he stated;
“There is no question that the two officers that were in the foot pursuit that night- their lives were saved by what Koki did.”
K9 Koki made the ultimate sacrifice to protect his fellow officers. He ensured his partner went home at the end of the night.
In response to the loss of K9 Koki, the Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Association Inc (ALECA) has started a fundraiser to assist the El Mirage Police Department in the purchase of another canine. That information can be found on their Facebook page for anyone wishing to donate to their efforts.
***Authors note_ Any photos not credited to their original source were provided directly by Officer Doug Jones for use by Law Enforcement Today.
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