ANDERSON — About a year ago, the Anderson Police Department hosted a block party at the downtown plaza to reach out to local citizens.
There were bounce houses and raffles, but the main attraction was a tactical demonstration led by officer Matt Jarrett and his K-9 partner, Magnum. Moments after completing an intense set of drills that included sinking his teeth into a padded arm cover, the dog stood docilely while a line of children pet him.
"He was the perfect dog to go from work to having fun," APD K-9 officer Darron Granger told The Herald Bulletin.
Magnum was euthanized last week after suffering a gunshot wound during an Aug. 18 manhunt, becoming the second APD dog killed in the line of duty in the past three weeks. K-9 officer Marty Dulworth lost his dog, Kilo, during a July 27 shooting in Pendleton. Dulworth was shot in the legs and continues to recover.
Both Magnum and Kilo were fun-loving, social dogs, Granger said, but they had very different physical builds.
Magnum, a Belgian Malinois weighed about 50 pounds. His small stature, and "ready-to-go" attitude earned him the nickname "Pocket Rocket" among APD officers. Kilo was a "big, brute knucklehead," Granger said.
He was the same breed as Magnum, but was 30 pounds heavier. Kilo knew he was big and wasn't easily intimidated.
"He wouldn't go around people; he thought he could go through them," Granger said.
To those who didn't know him, Kilo was a scary-looking dog, Granger said, which was an attribute when persuading a suspect to surrender. Like Magnum, though, when Kilo wasn't working he liked to play.
While K-9 shootings are not tracked nationwide, what happened in Anderson is unprecedented for a city its size, said Michael Johnson, president of The American Police Canine Association.
"This kind of thing doesn't happen unless you're in L.A., New York — those kinds of areas," Johnson said.
He noted that Anderson's K-9 program has a good reputation throughout the state, and said the APD was using the dogs responsibly when they were wounded.
"Departments maintain regimented training programs," Johnson said, adding that police can't control the environment when a criminal is on the run.
K-9 units are the first line of attack, and are often in the most danger, Johnson said. "They know the risk, and they take the brunt of it."
Sometimes K-9 units are used to set up a perimeter. But most of the time, Johnson said, they help apprehend resistant suspects. For smaller departments that don't have SWAT units, or in situations where police can't wait for a SWAT team to arrive, Johnson said, the K-9 unit is often called in first.
Most suspects view the dog, not the officer, as the number one threat, he said.
"A lot of times, the suspect knows they've done wrong, tensions are up, and they aren't thinking rationally," Granger explained.
Elwood K-9 Supervisor Sgt. Zach Taylor has worked with his partner, Fedor, for two years. Fedor was the first K-9 partner for both Dulworth and Jarrett. He's now 13 years old and will soon be retired.
"We spend more time with these K-9s then we do our own family," Taylor said. "Their loss is huge. It is like losing a family member."
Several of the K-9 officers from throughout Madison County visited Magnum at the veterinary hospital before he passed away, and Taylor said many of the "big, tough" officers were brought to tears when they heard of the dog's eventual death.
"They are a tool to the police department, but more than that to us," he said. "At home they are our dog, laying on the couch with us. But when it is time to go to work, they know and are ready to do their job. It is what they live for."
Every time Taylor prepares to send Fedor into a building for a search or to apprehend a suspect, he thinks about the risks.
"I definitely worry," he said. "I don't want to lose my partner. But that is his job. Why risk a human life when we have these tools? I see it like this, if Magnum hadn't been shot, it would have been a police officer shot."
Under Indiana Code, killing a police dog is a Class D felony. In the aftermath of the shootings in Anderson, many — including Granger and Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings — have said the felony should be upgraded.
"These dogs do a lot for us and the general public. They shouldn't get the death penalty or life in prison, but it should be at least a Class C felony," Granger said.
Under a Class D felony, an offender can be sentenced to as much as five years in prison but might end up serving only a year.
Police dogs have been ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court to be a non-deadly force. In Tennessee vs. Garner, the court found K-9 units to be an impact weapon, similar to an officer using a stun gun.
In Johnson's 23 years as a K-9 handler, he's found that after events such as what happened in Anderson, not all K-9 officers are willing to take on a new dog.
"All they see when they get into their vehicle is a tail wagging in the back," he said. "They get used to it. To check on their buddy and to not see them can be very traumatic." Jarrett was given time off this week to grieve for the loss of his partner. Jarrett, reportedly, has already said he would like to work with another dog.
"He's ready; that's what he loves to do. It's worse sitting at home and not having a partner to play with," Granger said.
Over the past month, the department's K-9 unit has been cut in half. Granger and officer Gabe Bailey are the only active K-9 officers. They will be stretched thin for a while, but Granger believes they're up to the task.
Through donations from the community, the department will purchase a new dog for Jarrett in a few weeks.
"The outpouring has been awesome. Almost everywhere I go, they all express condolences and support," Granger said.
After Jarrett receives a new K-9, it would be weeks if not months before the dog can begin patrolling. The two will need to bond and complete about 200 hours of training.
Granger said the department is waiting for Dulworth to fully recover before determining when to buy a new K-9 partner for him.
Even with the deaths of Magnum and Kilo, Granger said, APD will not change its fundamental approach to using police dogs.