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Douglas County Deputy Dave Wintle, who had served with the Sheriff's Office for 29 years, was a K9 handler for the last 13 years.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Wintle died Thursday after a brief illness.

Wintle, 51, experienced difficulty breathing that morning, and was taken to the hospital, where he later died, according to a press release from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Wintle was diagnosed with influenza about two weeks ago, said Douglas County Chief Deputy Thomas Wheeler, though it’s not clear if his death was related to the illness.

Wintle was a 29-year veteran of the department who earned several unit citations and commendations during his career. Wintle began his public service as a 911 dispatcher before becoming a sheriff’s deputy.

During his career, he served in patrol, courts and criminal investigations before spending the last 13 years as a K9 handler, most recently with a dog named Chet.

Over his years with the K9 unit, he helped take hundreds of pounds of drugs off the street, including marijuana, cocaine, heroine and methamphetamine, Wheeler said.

“He was somebody that younger deputies looked up to, sought advice from,” Wheeler said.

Wintle was preceded in death by his father, former Douglas County Chief Deputy Jim Wintle.

Wintle’s wife, Jami, said her husband took great pride in following in his father’s footsteps.

“One-hundred percent, yes,” she said. “He took his job very seriously.”

The couple, who had met on Match.com, had been married 10 years, she said.

“He was just a great husband and a better father,” she said.

Wintle had begun to think about retiring, so he was starting to look forward to the next chapter in life — “somewhere with warmer weather,” she said.

In addition to his wife, Wintle is survived by his four children, Rachel, Christian, Zachary and Skylar; mother, Jan; and sisters, Christine Rader and Terri Newton.

A funeral Mass will be held Monday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Columbkille Catholic Church.

Memorials are suggested to the Douglas County Sheriff’s K9 unit or Town and Country Humane Society.

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Reece covers Sarpy County for The World-Herald. He's a born-and-raised Nebraskan and UNL grad who spent time in Oklahoma and Virginia before returning home. Follow him on Twitter @reecereports. Phone: 402-444-1127

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