When Omaha Police Department service dog Kobus was killed Saturday during a standoff, he became the first K-9 killed since the unit was re-established in 1996.
Kobus, a 9-year-old Belgian Malinois, had served the department since 2008. He was scheduled to go into retirement in the coming months.
Authorities said Mark L’Heureux, 59, surrendered about 6:30 p.m. Saturday after firing at deputies and killing Kobus.
Sunday night, L’Heureux was in the Douglas County Jail, having been booked on suspicion of three counts of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of use of a weapon to commit a felony and one count of harassment of a police animal causing death, which also is a felony.
The standoff had begun about 5:30 p.m. Friday, when deputies went to the home near 83rd Street and Keystone Drive to serve a warrant ordering a psychiatric evaluation for L’Heureux.
He retreated to his basement and “told us he wasn’t coming out,” said Chief Deputy Sheriff Thomas Wheeler. L’Heureux was alone in the house.
L’Heureux shot and killed Kobus about 4 p.m., authorities said, when officers thought L’Heureux had become disoriented by a flashbang device.
Friday night, L’Heureux had fired seven rounds at deputies who were trying to dislodge a robot outfitted with a camera that had gotten stuck inside the house, twice striking the lead deputy’s ballistic shield, Wheeler said. The robot let officials get a closer view of L’Heureux and the house.
Snipers wearing tactical gear set up outside the house. But the plan was to find a way to force out L’Heureux, particularly after he had fired upon the deputies, Wheeler said.
He was undeterred by tear gas and the cold — authorities cut power and gas to the house Friday night — and he rebuffed deputies’ attempts to talk to him by telephone. Water shot from Fire Department hoses into basement windows Saturday ultimately led L’Heureux to leave, Wheeler said.
“He was tired of being wet and cold,” Wheeler said. “He finally had enough.”
L’Heureux was taken to a hospital, then to jail.
A search of L’Heureux’s home, Wheeler said, found three fully automatic handguns, one semi-automatic handgun, two rifles, a shotgun and two revolvers.
In an affidavit seeking a protection order, a neighbor in July said L’Heureux had used “huge shears” to cut several of her flowers. He was charged in August with two counts of theft by unlawful taking and one count of trespass in connection with the flower incident.
Condolences have flooded the Omaha Police Department’s Facebook page since Saturday night, prompting a response from an unidentified member of the K-9 unit.
“Thank you to everyone for your kind words, prayers and condolences,” a statement said. “The Omaha Police Department considers every one of our service dogs as a big part of our ‘Family of Blue’ and we are mourning Kobus as we would any of our heroes.”
Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer issued a statement on Kobus’ death: “Discipline and professional coordination was vital in bringing this incident to a close. I am proud of the deputies, officers and firefighters who worked on this extremely dangerous standoff. While there was no human loss of life during the standoff, the Omaha Police Department suffered the tragic loss of our K-9, Kobus.
“... The loss of our K-9 brings great sadness to the department and to his partner and handler, Officer Matthew McKinney. Kobus died in the line of duty in order to protect the lives of sworn law enforcement.”
Police were waiting Sunday to see if McKinney would like a ceremony for the dog before proceeding, said Sgt. Steve Worley of the Omaha Police Department’s K-9 unit. McKinney and other K-9 unit handlers were not available to comment Sunday.
“For now, we are giving him and his family some time to grieve,” Worley said.
In answer to a question posted on the Police Department’s Facebook page asking why Kobus was not wearing a protective vest, an unidentified officer said protective vests are “often not practical” for the dogs.
“Unfortunately, in this incident a vest would not have prevented the injuries to Kobus which ultimately led to his death,” the post reads. “Ballistic vests are often not practical for the K9’s as they are limiting in their movements and slow them down to the point of putting them at more risk. However with that being said, we try our best to keep our dogs safe both on duty and off duty at home.”
The First Responders Foundation has set up a memorial fund for Kobus on its Facebook page. The funds raised on the Internet or mailed to P.O. Box 540158, Omaha, NE 68154 will help with the purchase of working dogs.
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