Arkansas – We sadly lost a hero this past week in Jonesboro, Arkansas. An amazing K-9 named Gabo, who served the Jonesboro Police Department for seven years, died on Thursday after battling to recover from an undisclosed ailment.
While his passing comes with great sadness, this was no ordinary K-9 by any means – as his legacy and story of triumph will remain a pivotal moment within the department’s history.
The 8-year-old German shepherd had made his way into the department after being brought to the United States from Hungary. He was approximately a year old when he was enlisted in the ranks of the JPD, and found himself partnered up with Jonesboro Police Investigator Erik Johnson during his entire career, according to a press release.
The partnership led to Investigator Johnson and Gabo specializing in areas like patrol, narcotics detection, building search, tracking, suspect apprehension, and handler protection.
One of the most remarkable stories about K-9 Gabo was that he was shot five times at point-blank range on a SWAT callout on December 11th, 2018 – he survived and returned to duty within months.
Gabo and Investigator Johnson had reportedly responded to an area where police had reports coming in that a 56-year-old woman had shot a maintenance worker at an apartment complex. The story, which was featured on Inside Edition, stated that after five hours of negotiation attempts proved to be unsuccessful, they made the hard decision to send in Gabo to retrieve the suspect.
While the decision didn’t come easy, Gabo was wearing equipment unlike any other K-9 in the department at the time. Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliot stated during the interview:
“Gabo was the only dog at the time that had a vest.”
Investigator Johnson, while knowing that Gabo was wearing a bullet and stab-proof vest, was still worried that the worst was going to happen to his partner. Yet, he was also aware it was the only means to ensure the other officers would make it home safely to their families.
K9 Team of the Day – #K9TeamOfTheDay
Officer Erik Johnson and Medal of Valor K9 Gabo, Jonesboro PD, AR.https://t.co/6QRYYiGaSI#K9 #dog #WarOnDrugs #LivePD @LivePDNation @OfficialLivePD pic.twitter.com/Y8o6LH2Zmf
— Tactical Dog (@TacticalDogLive) February 13, 2019
During the course of the interview on Inside Edition, Investigator Johnson began to well up in tears when remembering that emotional confrontation.
“I told him I was sorry for what was going to happen. Told him I loved him. I had one of the other handlers call the vet, because I knew in my heart what was going to happen.”
When K-9 Gabo was released to get the suspect, the woman opened fire on police, hitting the K-9 five times during the hail of bullets. Police responded with fire, killing the suspect.
Gabo was rushed into surgery after being struck. Investigator Johnson told interviewers that he remained by K-9 Gabo’s side all night after his surgery was completed.
“I wasn’t leaving my partner,” he said.
The vest that K-9 Gabo was wearing during the time of the shooting saved his life. If it weren’t for the amazing work and donation by Vested Interest in K9s, Gabo would have realistically succumbed to his injuries that night.
Merely two months after being shot, K-9 Gabo was back on the beat with his partner. After the amazing heroism and recovery, K-9 Gabo found himself the recipient of Medal of Valor. The duo was also named as the Crimestoppers Persons of the Year in 2019, as well as attaining the Officer of the Year award in 2019.
The passing of K-9 Gabo was summarized with the following sentiment by the JPD on their press release on Facebook:
“JPD’s K9 Unit is dear to all of our hearts. When they hurt, we hurt. We will never be able to express how appreciative we are for Gabo, Erik, and the entire K9 Unit. Their work does not go unnoticed and we grieve with Erik at the loss of his irreplaceable partner. Rest easy, Gabo. We’ll take it from here.”
According to the JPD, there will be a memorial service being held on Monday, January 20th, to commemorate the life and awesome work of K-9 Gabo. We want to extend our condolences to Investigator Johnson, as losing a partner is never easy.
If you’ve never gotten to see these police dogs in training, you’d be amazed.
Not all canines are created equal. LET had the opportunity to tour the United States facility that is training elite police, military and civilian canine teams.
According to the group:
“AK9I has designed a unique training program with focus on two primary target applicant groups.
The first group is US military veterans, active military members and civilians pursuing a canine career in law enforcement or commercial security services.
The second group is law enforcement agencies (LEA), particularly those with budget constrictions.”
AK9I is a premier K-9 solutions provider located close to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. With over 176 acres of training grounds, onsite dormitories, and a beautifully maintained and fully staffed 226 run kennel.
AK9I has a multitude of offsite training locations to enhance the training experience such as abandoned schools, a decommissioned battleship, parks, massive car lots, local businesses, and more.
They also have an explosive range and lab on property through a robust partnership with Point One USA that allows them to offer nearly unparalleled training on explosives. There are areas for ranges that can accommodate both live fire and simmunitions training. It is a one stop shop for your department’s K-9 needs.
They offer a 5-week single purpose detection dog course, a 6-week law enforcement specific handler course, an 8-week dual purpose handler course, and a 13-week handler/ trainer course.
According to James Overton, the Director of Marketing and Business Development, AK9I primarily trains;
“…on the odor detection side, whether it be explosives, narcotics got dogs who are trained to find bed bugs. You’ve got dogs that are trained to find cadavers, electronics or currency or food. If it has an odor, you can train the dog to find it.
There are so many capabilities that the canine brings to the table that regular humans just can’t do. The military did a massive research study that determined the best way to detect explosives was a K-9.”
The staff of AK9I is comprised of former military and law enforcement that have extensive experience as K-9 handlers and trainers. They have trained dozens of local, state, and federal law enforcement K-9 handlers, as well as hundreds of DoD military working dog handlers.
The facility offers a phenomenal pool of dogs, such as German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Labrador Retrievers, and Dutch Shepherds.
All of the canines have undergone extensive medical and physical screening and evaluations, and each comes with a one-year health guarantee. The designated handler, attends the facility and is paired with a canine partner and given the opportunity to bond.
AK9I offers a Patrol K-9 Operations Training course, which, according to their website includes:
The handler/canine team will be taught the basics of agility and obedience through obstacle course training and combat-related tasks such as long downs, vertical/horizontal carries, ladder climbs, window entries and tactical movements.
• Aggression Training includes:
• Single and multi-person apprehension
• Apprehension from vehicle
• Apprehension with gunfire
• Vehicle extractions
• Handler protection
• Prisoner escorts
• Recalls and call-outs
At the end of this portion of Patrol K-9 training, students will have a comprehensive understanding of canine drives (food, play, prey, hunt, defense, fight, and pack) and will be able to read and activate these canine drives as necessary to manage the canine’s behavior in aggression situations.
AK9I’s lead instructor Richard Thomason explained his desire to be part of this facility and its training methods;
“The reason I chose to come here was due to the fact that the program they had with the veterans, that really sparked the interest in myself to help these guys out. Not just to train the dogs, but to help them [the veterans] and to push them in the right direction.”
The facility has the unique ability to offer these courses to veterans under the GI Bill. As explained by their website; “AK9I has been approved by the Virginia State Approving Agency (SAA) to provide professional canine-focused education and training services under the GI Bill®
All accepted students will select, bond, train, certify and depart with their selected canine upon successful course completion. The cost of tuition, books, and training materials for our canine Handler and canine Trainer courses may be paid directly to AK9I by the VA.”
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This is particularly helpful for LEA that are interested in the program but that have budget constraints. As AK9I explains further, “An LEA officer wanting to go into K-9 and eligible via his/her military service could attend training under the GI Bill.
Thus, a local LEA or other first responder agency looking to add to an existing K-9 unit, or wanting to create one, can reduce the cost to do so by as much as $20,000.00.”
Britney Howard, a retired Air Force veteran stated,
“Coming to this school and it being paid for with the GI bill allowed me to do something that I love with people that know exactly what they’re talking about and it allowed me to boost my knowledge in the canine department.”
Whether you are a transitioning service member or veteran looking for an exciting and fulfilling career in the K-9 world, a first responder looking to augment your department’s capability, or a civilian looking to break in to the K-9 industry AK9I has the facility, staff, and experience to help accomplish that goal. AK9I is approved by the Virginia State Approving Agency to provide education and training under Chapter 33 of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. In addition to being able to utilize your education benefits to cover the cost of the course, we include a K-9, from proven working lines that has passed rigorous screening, as well as housing in our new dorm rooms during the course at NO ADDITIONAL COST! We also offer additional training beyond what other schools offer on regular odor detection. With our state of the art explosives lab, and EOD range on our premises thanks to our strategic partnership with Point One USA, our students get unparalleled training on IED recognition and home made explosives. We have top notch instructors in the areas of patrol operations to help those students interested in dual purpose dogs that fine tune their K-9 partners to be formidable assets for their organization. With 200 acres of training area, and dozens of off site locations designed to replicate every scenario you’ll encounter in the field, as well as a state of the art kennel facility, AK9I is your complete solution for all things K-9.Visit ak9i.com/enroll to learn more!
Posted by AK9I on Monday, September 2, 2019
As explained by Overton, the canine teams are put through rigorous training scenarios. Every training scenario that is given to the dogs is a different ‘picture’ for the dogs and nighttime training is a completely different avenue that the dogs need to see in order to be acclimated to that when they encounter it in the real world.
“When you’re, when you’re tracking somebody at night, it looks different to the dog. Just like it looks different to us and it’s the same thing.
The sounds are different, the smells can be different sometimes. So we sort of expose the dog or those types of scenarios so that when they encounter them in the real world they react like they’re supposed to.” Overton said.
These dogs can be trained to detect anything from drugs to explosives to USB drives. Check out how AK9I is leading the pack training these animals for high-threat law enforcement and military scenarios.
Posted by Law Enforcement Today on Tuesday, October 2, 2018
In regards to the teams that they are producing, Overton commented;
“We’re not making Tupperware. We’re ‘making stuff’ that guys are of putting their lives on the line with, you can’t have something that’s gonna fail on you.”
Overton had this to say about the use of canines:
“I see the canine road exploding over the next couple of years, especially on the civilian side. With the security situation continuing to deteriorate here in the States, I think there’s going to be a lot more applications for dogs that people really didn’t see [like] using dogs as an active shooter deterrence in schools. Or using them [more] for the cargo screening stuff, you know, with the TSA or FedEx or UPS.”
He went on to further explain;
“I see dogs being utilized a lot more and avenues like that, or even in a concert venue and the stadiums and any places where there’s a large congregation of people that can be a potential target. I see canines being used there.”
AK9I is also continually developing new programs as the market demands it.
“One of the programs that we’re looking at doing is for the active shooter deterrents in schools, “ Overton stated. “We see that getting a lot of bipartisan support because we’re not putting another firearm in schools. We’re putting a canine team in schools. The canine solution is sort of a bridging solution that brings those two people together.”
Any departments, veterans or individuals that are interested in the canine handler training programs can contact American K-9 Interdiction directly at Tel: (757) 304-9600 or email: [email protected]
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