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Remembering Bo: A K-9 partner's last heroics

Officer recalls dog dying in his arms after stopping suspect; new bomb-sniffing canine is helping handler cope with loss

By Vic Ryckaert
Indianapolis Star-Tribune

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — At home, Bo loved to run in the yard, play with his ball and romp with his buddies, but on the streets he was an unstoppable force against crime.

Mortally wounded by two gunshots on May 10, Bo refused to quit until a suspected burglar stopped running.

Bo's partner recalled the moment.

"I looked down and could see he was gone," Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer Scott Johnson said. "He died while I was holding him in my arms, trying to carry him to the car."

The two served together about six years.

"He loved what he did, like most policemen," Johnson said. "If you could talk to a police dog, they would choose going in the line of duty, catching one last bad guy. I would say that's the way he would like to do it."

Bo, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois killed while protecting his partner and chasing a suspect, will be remembered at 6 p.m. Thursday during a public memorial service at Franklin Central High School's Robert Mason Auditorium, 6215 S. Franklin Road.

In his first interview since Bo was killed, Johnson thanked the community for the hundreds of letters and cards he's received. A charity that supports IMPD's canine units has taken $8,000 in donations since Bo died.

Johnson has been assigned a new canine partner, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois named Tex. While Bo sniffed out drugs, Tex is trained to detect explosives. Dogs cannot be trained to do both.

Johnson still is getting to know Tex, but he said working with the new animal is helping him cope with losing his close canine companion.

"I spent more time with that dog in the last six years than I have with my wife," Johnson said. "He did exactly what his job was, and he paid the ultimate sacrifice. He definitely saved one of us from getting hurt."

Police dogs and their human partners work, train, live and play together. The job forces them to form tight bonds. Canine and handler learn each other's quirks and to trust each other without hesitation.

Bo and Johnson had been tight partners since they teamed up in 2002. Bo was just learning how to be a patrol dog. With Johnson's guidance, Bo learned to sniff out marijuana, cocaine and other drugs. Bo also learned to chase down fleeing suspects, capturing them with his powerful jaws.

Bo assisted in capturing about 100 bad guys in his time with the Marion County Sheriff's Department and IMPD, Johnson said. Most suspects took one look at Bo and gave up without a fight. Suspects with less wisdom ran and felt Bo's teeth.

Clinton Drew Hernandez felt Bo's teeth May 10. Police said Hernandez was burglarizing a home in the 6300 block of Moonstruck Parkway at 9:23 a.m. when the owner returned home and called police.

The suspect led officers on a chase across I-65, I-465 and the 5700 block of Southeastern Avenue, where, police said, Hernandez jumped out of a red SUV and ran.

Johnson released Bo, and the dog latched onto Hernandez's leg like a pair of vise-grip pliers. Hernandez, 21, pulled a gun and fired two shots into the dog, police said.

One round went through Bo's chest; the other lodged in his hindquarters. Bo got up and chased the suspect for another block.
Hernandez gave up, and Johnson called Bo back.

"He came back to me and literally fell over at my feet," Johnson said. "I could tell it wasn't good."

Johnson picked up Bo and ran toward his squad car parked about a block away. It was too late.

Dogs do not understand danger, said Lt. Benny Diggs, the commander of IMPD's canine unit. They do what they are trained to do, whatever the cost.

"When that dog was shot, his only thought was, 'Protect Scott and get the bad guy,' " Diggs said. "Their job is to apprehend people, even if it causes their death. In the process, Bo probably saved Scott, and he could have saved other officers and civilians."

Please contact the Puerto Rico Police Department for funeral arrangements or for survivor benefit fund information.


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