I have a little true crime story for you today.
Once upon a time a police dog saved my life.
It happened shortly after I moved out of an apartment a block from Seal Beach into a house full of artists in Los Angeles.
My new neighborhood was home to one of the nation’s most dangerous gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha. Our house, like every other house on the block had bars on the windows and a barred screen door with double deadbolts.
So, you might think this story about a police dog saving my life has to do with living in the gangbanger neighborhood, where drug deals and police helicopters were part of the landscape.
One Sunday afternoon, I headed back down to the waitressing job I still had in Seal Beach. I needed some money for a road trip I was taking early the next morning. Withdrawing a fist full of cash in my new, gangbanger neighborhood didn’t seem like a smart idea, so I decided to stop at my old ATM in bucolic Seal Beach.
The parking lot of the bank was deserted. As I got out of my car, I vaguely registered the noise of police sirens, but didn’t really pay attention. As I fiddled with the ATM, the sound grew closer.
I looked up. Across the parking lot, a man was running toward me with something in his hand that flashed in the setting sun. A dog with ears bent back, was right on his heels. I didn’t really understand what I was seeing.
In a fog, acting by instinct only, I started walking toward my car, still not comprehending what was going on, only acting on some primal, biological, survival instinct. Everything was in slow motion.
When the man and the dog were about ten feet away from me, I saw the shiny thing in the man’s hand was a knife. Just then, the dog attacked him and in a flurry of snarls and shouts, they rolled on the ground.
At the other end of the large parking lot, a group of police officers rounded the corner on foot, panting. Squad cars with flashing lights and sirens followed. At the same moment, I heard the heart-stopping thump-thump-thump of a low-hovering helicopter before I saw it round the corner above the charging mass.
After what seemed like an eternity of fumbling with my keys, I finally unlocked the door to my car and tumbled in, frantically locking the door behind me. I sat frozen, staring through my windshield at the struggle in front of me.
The man got up and ran toward me in my car. Behind him, the dog lay still, a small bundle of fur that was not moving. About six police officers caught up to the man just as he reached the front of my car. With guns drawn, they made a semi-circle around him and the hood of my car.
Straight across from me, the black muzzle of a gun pointed my way. My only thought was if the man ducked, the officer pointing that gun would accidentally shoot me.
Within seconds, the police had tackled the man in a blur of shouting and motion. When the crowd parted, he was facedown and handcuffed.
Behind me, the helicopter had set down in the parking lot. Everyone was running around shouting. One of the officers ran up to my window and shouted for me to get the hell out of there.
So, of course I did.
The next morning early, I took a planned road trip to Northern California.
A week later, when I got back, I asked my friends if they had heard anything about a police dog getting stabbed. They told me the funeral of the K9 had been all over the news.
I didn't really think about it again until years later.
When I did, it didn't take a lot of online researching to find out more. The dog who saved my life was from the Huntington Beach Police Department. His name was KIM. Many years back, I emailed the police officer who was his handler and shared the story of how I was convinced deep in my bones that his partner, Kim, had saved my life that day.
Here’s an article the LA Times ran about the incident.
Here is what the Huntington Beach Police Department website says about KIM
POLICE CANINE KIM
End of Watch: March 26, 1991
On Sunday, March 26, 1991, shortly after 5:00PM, Officer Jim Weaver and his canine partner were involved in a high speed pursuit into Seal Beach. At the end of the chase, the suspect tried to escape on foot and ignored repeated demands to surrender. KIM was released and chased the suspect overtaking him in a nearby parking lot.
Once on the ground, the suspect stabbed KIM several times causing major injuries to the dog. The suspect finally surrendered to officers and was charged with multiple crimes. Due to his extensive injuries, KIM died a short time later. KIM was 5 1/2 years old and served the HBPD for two years.