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Hero K-9 from San Bernardino attack laid to rest

A San Bernardino detective has written a heartfelt tribute to his fallen K-9 partner

By PoliceOne Staff

A San Bernardino detective has written a heartfelt tribute to his fallen K-9 partner.

Jojo, who specialized in explosives detection and tracking, passed away last week. According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, the police dog was "instrumental to not only our Sheriff’s Department but our entire county's safety" during the response to the December 2015 terrorist attack that left 14 people dead and 22 people seriously injured. The full letter, written by the dog's handler, Detective Brad Phillips, follows below: 

(Photo courtesy San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department)
(Photo courtesy San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department)

It is with a heavy heart that I write this about my partner, Jojo. Jojo was a 4-year old sable German Shepherd who was trained in explosive detection and tracking. Jojo and I were a team on the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department (SBSD) in California. San Bernardino is the largest county in the world, covers 23,000 square miles, and is larger than 5 states. Jojo and I were assigned to the Special Enforcement Division which includes SWAT, arson, and bombs. I am a bomb technician. 

Jojo and I were a team for the past three years. In my 26 years as a deputy sheriff, I have had many great assignments. However, 3 years ago, my dream came true when I was appointed K-9 handler for the only explosive dog in the department. I was teamed with Jojo, a dog from Vohne Liche Kennels (VLK), and we immediately formed an unbreakable bond. Although we were both very green, we were able to predict each other's thinking. Over the 3 years that we were partners, we were together for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At times we traveled 500 miles to conduct searches but neither Jojo nor I minded because we had each other. We depended on each other for safety, comfort, and companionship.  

Jojo was remarkable in that he loved my family and watched after them. He especially took to my 11-year-old daughter. We would often go running as a family and when Jojo would see my daughter fall behind, he would run behind her and nudge her to keep up. He instinctively knew to "never leave a man behind".  

Jojo was the only explosive dog in San Bernardino County. He did many amazing things in his short life including finding buried and hidden guns, tracking and exposing wanted felons, and identifying explosive devices. His greatest day of valor came on December 2, 2015 when 14 of our county employees were massacred by two attackers determined to cause the greatest possible amount of death and destruction. Jojo searched for over 10 consecutive hours in the parking lots of the site, in the buildings near the massacre, and in the actual room where the people were still lying lifelessly. The conditions in that room were such that no man or dog should ever have to witness, but we did our job and ensured that the room was secured.  

(San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Image)

When the President came to speak to the families of the December 2nd victims, Jojo cleared the venue in advance. He also searched and cleared a huge arena prior to a visit from Governor Jerry Brown and Mayor Giuliani who also addressed the victims' families. In the wake of the shootings, Jojo and I were deployed for searches 4-5 times per day. Knowing that venues had been cleared by Jojo gave great comfort to the people of this county and helped them to begin to rebuild their confidence that they were safe. Jojo's searches promoted a semblance of normalcy.

Unfortunately, on January 6, 2016 at 11:05 am, my best friend and partner died in the line of duty while searching a warehouse. During the search, Jojo got an object lodged in his throat and choked. I did everything in my power to save him and in the process had my right pinky finger amputated. We are unsure if the doctor will be able to save my finger but it is a small price to pay in an attempt to save my friend's life. I am devastated that I failed.  

San Bernardino County is the largest geographical county in the United States; Jojo was the only explosive dog in the County. He was a VLK graduate and he will be greatly missed. 

Brad Phillips, Detective 

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