by Officer William Downing
On May 28, 2010, a local low supervision prison work crew began their day grooming the lawn of a local Masonic Grave
yard in Coquille Oregon.
One of the prisoners decided
to run from the work area in an attempt to escape. Myself (Officer Bill Downing) and my K9 “Bruno” was dispatched
to track the suspect.
As most K9 Officers, I called
and asked the following questions: Who, What, When and Were. I was advised of the circumstances, advised where to go and where
I would begin the track with a County Officer who was standing by waiting for my arrival.
I loaded “Bruno”
into the vehicle, and if your K9 is as happy to go to work as he is, there’s not much loading. “Bruno” was
running to the car with the site of me being in uniform. I began the drive with the typical lights, sirens and the additional
siren of the dog barking constantly.
I continued my twenty minute drive to the track site going over the normal tracking theories, and
with the thought of using some additional things I learned at the latest Technical Tracking class, this past April, from SMI
I arrived on the scene like
most not knowing a start point, and there had been approximately 1 ½ hours from when the escapee had run. I began casting
my K9 immediately in the area he was last scene running.
I began the clock method of checking for scent and after approximately 3 times of performing the technique
and going out approximately 150 yards,we were off to the races.
We began our track, going through heavy blackberry bushes, trees and water up to my chest. The whole time
knowing we were on track.
I checked the area for approximately two hours,
checking the negatives, checking the areas continuing to do everything taught to pick up the scent I thought was lost.
After several hours, and the
fact that there was no containment for approximately 1 hour from when the suspect ran, we ended the track.
The following day, I received
the second call: it was approximately 5 pm and the escapee had been scene near a local farming field.
Once again I loaded “Bruno” up
and asked the questions. This time we had perfect containment on a thick area of woods.
We began our drive again lights,
and sirens. I began pumping up my K9 with the typical “Going to find the Bad guy?” This Jacked “Bruno”
up even more, and I was determined that since I had a second try on finding the escapee we were going to succeed.
I meet with County Officers again away from
the tracking scene; they advised me there was containment, no contamination, and going to escort me into where the suspect
was last scene. I got my K9 out at that point and “Broke” him far from the tracking site. I ensured that he did
both businesses before I loaded him up in the car and started the track.
We pulled up to the starting area; we entered the area from on top of a ridge heading down to a logging
road. My K9 Bruno already had his head down attempting to pick up scent. I knew this was going to be good.
As we entered a locked gate area, I spoke
those famous words we all do “Zuk”. Bruno began tracking down the road and made an immediate right up what appeared
to be a typical deer trail. We were tracking over old logs through knee deep water and scaling up the side of a mountain.
I remember from the class up
hill the dog’s nose will be raised and down hill it will lower. His nose was definitely raised and was on track.
Once we reach the top of the hill the dog was scenting hard and the area was very thick with brush
old trees from years of logging.
After giving negative after negative we decided to head back down the mountain and check the logging road
again. As we went approximately 50 yards from where the K9 went into the wood line Bruno banked a left into some marsh fields
and we located a fresh foot print.
I continued checking two very large fields usually grazing field for cows that are this time of the
year under water. Continued doing clock method of checking the fields and the dog showed no interest.
I pulled Bruno out of the fields
checked further up the logging road for approximately 200 more yards with no alerts.
I then decided what we had at
the beginning of the track was to strong to pass up so we went back and the dog went up into the same area up the mountain.
After working the area I heard
over the radio and Officer had the suspect at gun point not far from where we were at. The suspect ran again into the thick
Myself, three cover Officer’s
and “Bruno” ran to where the containment Officer was. We entered the woods and began checking the area heavily.
You could tell after approximately two hours of tracking through heavy terrain, running “Bruno” and all of us
were getting tired and throwing off heavy amounts of scent from the excitement.
I could tell “Bruno” was working really hard but was having a hard time with categorizing
the scent that he was initially tracking (Scent Discrimination).
I advised all Officer’s to pull back out of the area let the dog relax and give the scent time
to fall. After approximately 15 minutes of time I again gave K9 “Bruno” the “Zuk” command and only
took one cover officer into the woods with me.
Bruno exploded! Grabbed the leash out of my hands and we were running. We went straight up a ridge
down the other side through some water and up another embankment not slowing down and nose to the ground. As we came down
the embankment “Bruno” began that hard pulling track knowing he was into heavy scent. Not even an additional 50
yards under some heavy tree waste and bushes I could see the suspect. I held my K9 and began giving the commands of “Show
me your hands!” Mission complete, we had got our man.
The suspect was in custody and we had done our job. I say all of this because it is always easy to go try
and leave. Success doesn’t come cheap. I was soaked, smelly, dog was smelly, and we didn’t give up.
I talked to the suspect after putting away
my K9 he stated he heard us in the first area we entered the woods and slowly made his way around where he met the containment
officer. The footprint in the mud we saw near the farmers field was from him when he first heard the initial sirens looking
for the police, which would explain scent being in the open farming fields full of moisture.
I say all of this because it was nice to use all the theories ASCT teaches on tracking use them you will succeed.
Go beyond those barriers, get dirty with your dog, and stay in the fight with them. If you were the k9 and your
dog were you - what would you think if your handler pulled you off track just because he didn’t want to get wet
or dirty? Frustrating Huh?