The Louisa County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit trains hard to catch the ‘bad guys’
Master trainer Armin Winkler (l) pretends to be a suspect caught by Diesel during one of his training sessions with his handler Deputy Jay Hensley.
They are the fastest, most intimidating and loyal officers working for the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office and, according to Captain Jack Poindexter, they are an intricate part of the patrol division.
Ask any resident of Louisa County and most can name at least one bloodhound of the K-9 division, but if you ask for the name of one of the patrol dogs, you might be hard pressed to come up with one.
The bloodhounds’ lesser known counterparts, K-9’s Barney, Rambo and Diesel aren’t your typical warm and cuddly four-legged dogs, and they are not meant to be. They are trained to apprehend. Even their presence can prevent a physical confrontation by a suspect.
These badge-carrying canine officers perform a variety of important tasks for LCSO, such as criminal apprehension, building and area searches and even protecting the lives of their handlers. Simply put, they serve and protect. In Virginia, even injuring or killing a police dog can garner you a felony charge.
The dogs are typically 18 months to two years old when they begin their specialized training as a patrol dog and can cost upwards of $12,000. The price tag not only includes the dog, but some basic training as well.
The K-9 Patrol Division is led by Poindexter, who served as a canine handler for 18 years. He believes this helps him as their supervisor, because he has walked in their shoes.
According to Deputy Kevin Miller, the dogs are more social until they begin their operation training and develop an attitude where their mentality is work-oriented.
The sheriff’s office K-9 master trainer, Armin Winkler, of Fluvanna, knows the department and what Louisa handlers look for in a dog.
“If he sees you are not clicking, he’ll get another dog in,” Miller said. “His main goal is your safety with that dog. He will not let you and the dog loose as a team until he is confident that dog will protect you.”
Deputy Jay Hensley serves with his partner, Diesel, who is the youngest of the patrol dogs at only four-years-old.
Hensley began his law enforcement career in Buckingham, and came to Louisa in 2008.
Diesel’s claim to fame came on July 28, 2012, when his assistance was requested from LCSO and the U.S. Marshalls, who were trying to locate fugitive Adam Martin.
Martin was wanted in Louisa County for malicious wounding, unlawful bodily injury, and had charges in Albemarle as well.
When Martin was found at a residence on Louisa Road, he told authorities he was not coming out. After the house was cleared of people and animals, Hensley and Diesel went in.
Diesel alerted (barked) on a couch in the residence. Martin was discovered hiding inside the wall, with a couch pulled up against the hole that was cut. Diesel zoned in on him within minutes of being in the residence.
These dogs’ sense of smell is almost 50 times more sensitive than humans, making them irreplaceable when it comes to evidence and narcotics detection. According to the LCSO handlers, the dogs’ sense of smell is finicky too. They are able to pick a specific scent, even when there are a lot of other smells around.
Miller has served with his partner, Rambo, since February 2007. In June, Rambo will turn nine and will soon be retiring from service.
“We are now in the phase of looking for another dog to retire him,” Miller said. “His mind is still in it totally, but his body isn’t keeping up with his mind, so to speak.”
Born in Holland in 2005, Rambo has assisted the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Marshall’s, Virgina State Police, and even had the opportunity to train with the Los Angeles Police Department SWAT.
Miller began his career with LCSO in 2003 as a communication officer. In 2005, he was certified as a patrol deputy, and in 2007, he was promoted to the K-9 division.
Deputy Bryan Hager began his career in Louisa in March of 2011, and became partners with his canine, Barney, in September 2013.
Hager previously served in the U.S. Army for six years as a military police officer, where he was exposed to the K-9’s who went out on missions with the troops. While there, he became aware of how the dogs work.
To read the entire story, see the Feb. 27 edition of The Central Virginian.