Created: 03/24/2014 10:38 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4
For police officers in the line of fire, a dog is much more than a best friend.
He's a comrade.
Officers from APD's northwest command know it too well.
Over the weekend, a SWAT situation ended with one of their four-legged comrades shot three times.
Not only did Rico the K-9 do what he was trained to do as a police dog, he also risked his life to put himself between an armed man and his APD comrades.
His bravery has his fellow officers calling him a hero.
"He saved our lives," K-9 officer Ken Ronzone said.
Ronzone is Rico's handler, and -- speaking of Rico -- you'd be hard pressed to find someone else in such a good mood after what he's been through.
"He's a hero, aren't ya buddy?" said Ronzone, giving Rico a pat on the forehead.
Ronzone and Rico have been partners for a little less than a year.
"We've been out on the streets since the end of June," he said.
But neither of these buddies had any idea what would happen early Friday morning.
APD had a suspect surrounded inside a trailer and Rico was sent in first.
"The offender was most likely lying in wait," Ronzone said. "The suspect fired multiple shots at him, striking him at least three times."
Now, Rico has a mangled left ear, bullet holes in his neck and shoulder and a ruptured eardrum.
"We've developed a real strong bond," Ronzone said.
But for officer Ronzone, they're a reminder.
"I don't have any doubt in my mind that if an officer would have opened the doors to that trailer, we would have been involved in some sort of deadly force encounter," he said.
A loyal friend is always there.
"Lot of thankful police officers out there for you," Ronzone said to Rico. "For all of us, the whole unit."
Now officer Ronzone said because of Rico's ruptured eardrum, he may not be able to return to duty.
If that's the case, he will go into retirement with Ronzone and his family at their home.
Police identified the man suspected of shooting Rico as 56-year-old Dale Lusian.
He died of an apparent suicide during that SWAT situation.