By Patrick Lohmann
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque police dog remains in serious condition after being shot three times Friday while trying to sniff out a suspected burglar during a standoff at a Northeast Albuquerque towing company lot.
The suspected burglar was found dead after the dog was rushed to an emergency veterinarian. It's unclear how the burglar died, police said, but they said officers did not discharge their weapons.
Investigators afterward could be seen combing through a junk-filled trailer in the northwest corner of the towing company — C.T. Towing near Alameda and San Pedro NE — tossing away pieces of wood and metal and placing other items in plastic bags.
The trailer sat alongside a wall on the north side of the lot and had a large hole through the center of it. APD and other local law enforcement agencies were also seen photographing the scene.
The police dog, Rico, is a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois. APD spokeswoman Tasia Martinez said the canine suffered gunshot wounds to his head and neck and had "massive trauma." Though the animal survived emergency surgery, she said, he is still in serious condition. In the surgery, a veterinarian removed a bullet from near the animal's spine, and Rico is now in recovery, APD said.
As part of the Albuquerque Police Department's K-9 unit, the animal lives with his handler, who remained with the dog throughout surgery, according to Martinez.
"It's kind of personal for officers that a K-9 Unit would be shot," said APD spokesman Simon Drobik during a Friday morning news conference.
Around 4 a.m., the towing company's owner called police to report a "suspicious" person in his company's fenced-in lot, Drobik said. Police arrived and established a perimeter. Police said the suspect saw officers approach and ran toward a storage container. He then barricaded himself inside and refused to surrender, police said.
That's when officers decided to let the dog loose inside the lot, because of the large area to cover.
Drobik said it's standard APD practice to allow canines to go into large scenes like the one at the towing yard first to locate a suspect.
Sometime after the dog entered the lot, Drobik said, shots rang out. Drobik couldn't say how many shots were fired. Officers discovered the animal injured and rushed him to the vet, he said.
Later, officers entered the lot to find the suspect dead. Police haven't identified him or given any explanation for how he might have died, except that no APD officer discharged his or her weapon throughout the standoff.
Drobik could not provide specifics Friday about the timeline of events, including when the shots were heard, when the dog was sent to the hospital or when the suspect was found dead. He also said he didn't know if a weapon was found near the man's body.
The towing company's owner could also not be reached for comment. C.T. Towing shares the lot with another towing company and sits on a block alongside a four-acre storage company. Employees at the storage company said they don't have an on-site manager, so no one would have been nearby at the time of the early morning standoff.
Copyright 2014 the Albuquerque Journal
McClatchy-Tribune News Service