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Kilo, wounded police dog, back on patrol in Hernando

BROOKSVILLE — The deputy was wearing a bite sleeve, a bulky plastic and burlap contraption that protected much of his left arm.

Kilo was ready to spring into action from about 10 feet away, slobbering at the prospect. Within seconds, the police dog was given the word — in German — to attack.

He quickly latched onto the deputy's arm, clamping down hard on the sleeve. And he did it in virtual silence.

"Being quiet is a sign of confidence," said Deputy Bill Martinez, canine coordinator for the Sheriff's Office. "It shows that Kilo is a confident dog."

The Sheriff's Office brought out Kilo for a brief news conference Wednesday, his first public appearance since being shot in the jaw, neck and leg in a tussle nearly two weeks ago with a man who had fired a weapon at police officers.

A fourth bullet hit Kilo's bulletproof vest near his neck. No officers were injured.

The gunman, Keith Ritchie, was fatally shot following a brief gun battle with authorities on the evening of Aug. 5. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has begun an investigation into the shooting, which is standard practice.

According to the Sheriff's Office, the last time a Hernando County police dog was shot in the line of duty was about 10 years ago when a handler mistakenly shot the dog during an arrest.

Nugent said Kilo might have saved the lives of other deputies because he tracked down Ritchie, who was hiding in the back yard of the house on Fort Dade Avenue. If authorities had arrived at the scene before Kilo, Ritchie could have emerged from his hiding place and shot at the deputies first.

"We got very lucky," Nugent said. "You don't want to lose a dog — but if it's that versus a deputy, that's what they're there for. A dog will die for his handler."

The sheriff said he was told by a representative from Point Blank, the company that made Kilo's Kevlar vest, that this was the first time a vest had ever saved a police dog's life.

Kilo's handler, Deputy Steven Miller, said the 5-year-old German shepherd mostly rested at home comfortably while he recovered from his wounds. But several times over the past couple weeks, Miller said, Kilo raced from his kennel to the patrol vehicle as if it were time to go to work.

"He wanted to get inside and go with me," Miller said. "He couldn't wait."

First, Miller and other deputies had to make sure Kilo was ready to return to his grueling 12-hour patrol shifts.

As part of their training drills, Miller took Kilo through a series of gunfire exercises to see if the dog would be startled by the sound. Kilo had no problems, the deputy said.

Nugent and Miller both described the dog as "grumpy," which suits them just fine.

"In a police dog," Nugent said, "that's what you want."

The Sheriff's Office also introduced their newest police dog Wednesday, a 2-year-old German shepherd named Ike. Nugent said Ike will finish his training Friday and start work at the department Monday.

Ike will be the department's fourth dog.

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

Kilo, wounded police dog, back on patrol in Hernando 08/18/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 9:33pm]
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