March 23 was a good day for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s K9 unit. Four K9/handler teams were responsible for apprehending a total of five suspects in two separate incidents across the county.
“They did a good job,” said K9 unit Sgt. Gary Knutson.
Deputy Kent Carpenter and his Belgian Malinois, Rieko, and Deputy Gerry McCann and his Belgian Malinois, Falco, were dispatched to Dana Point after three suspected burglars broke into a home already under surveillance by OCSD undercover deputies at about 11 a.m.
When deputies attempted to pull the suspects’ vehicle over and they didn’t stop, a brief pursuit ensued, said Knutson.
The female driver crashed through brush and into a golf course. The suspects fled the vehicle.
“Two of our K9s were in the pursuit,” said Knutson.
One of the K9 teams stayed at the car, while the other set up a perimeter position in the distance. The K9 and handler at the perimeter was told by a resident that the suspect was in his courtyard. K9 warning announcements were made by the Anaheim PD helicopter, Angel, that he was going to release his dog – “and that guy surrendered,” said Knutson.
After a search for the other two suspects, one of the dogs gave an alert to where they were hiding on an embankment near a drainage tunnel that went under the golf course and opened up to a riverbed behind a nursery. Upon announcing K9s would be used, the male and female suspects surrendered.
The second incident, at about 5 p.m. in Orange, was a call for assistance by the Orange PD following an attempted car stop on a suspicious vehicle that turned out to be stolen. Knutson said two individuals with possible ties to gang activity fled on foot, hiding in backyards.
Deputy Kyle Sheek and his Dutch shepherd, Arco, and Deputy Katie de Coup-Crank and her Dutch shepherd, Jimmy, were dispatched to search for the two male suspects. One of the OCSD’s helicopter units assisted to help the K9 teams narrow down the perimeter. The suspects were tracked down to an area near a residence. The handlers announced their K9s and both suspects surrendered.
“No use of force by anybody, and those guys surrendered peacefully and nobody got hurt,” said Knutson.
Knutson said this is the ideal scenario: a peaceful surrender. And the K9s often facilitate that.
“They (suspects) don’t want to get bit by a dog,” he said, adding that 80 percent of suspects that the OCSD K9 unit encounters surrender once handlers announce a K9 presence.
OCSD currently has nine K9/handler teams serving the county. Jimmy is the newest member, with only about a month of service. Arco and Falco have been with the team for about a year, and Rieko has been in service for three years.
“We cover a lot of days and hours during the week,” Knutson said of the K9 unit.