Ridgeland police are mourning the death of a 10-year, four-legged veteran of the force.
K9 Tony, a German-Dutch shepherd on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement team, died Monday at the age of 14.
The dog patrolled with his handler, Cpl. Chris Malphrus, from 2000 to 2010 and spent two years of retirement with Malphrus' family.
He was trained to track and catch suspects, detect drugs and protect his partners, Malphrus said. Together, they braved shootings, high-speed chases and violent suspects, he said.
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"He has a record that's beyond belief as far as numbers," Malphrus said of the dog's nose for illegal substances. "He was just a good partner."
Malphrus said Tony could give probable cause to a gut instinct in a way that a human partner couldn't, leading to drug raids that otherwise wouldn't have occurred.
In 2003, Malphrus said, he made a traffic stop on Interstate 95 in which an interview with the driver piqued his suspicion. Tony circled the car and within a few minutes sat facing the trunk, his tell-tale sign that he smelled something. As it turned out, 66 pounds of cocaine were hidden inside.
"Tony found things even an officer with a trained eye wouldn't see," he said.
While with the department, Tony sniffed out over 1,200 pounds of marijuana, 100 pounds of cocaine, 15 pounds of heroin and 5 pounds of methamphetamine, said Cpl. Tim East, spokesman for the Ridgeland Police Department.
As a member of Malphrus' family, Tony was a gentle, loyal guardian. Malphrus said he trusted his family's life with the dog, who would allow Malphrus' young daughter to ride on his back like a horse.
"I told my wife and kids, if anything happened and I wasn't around ... to go get Tony," he said. "He would have definetly given his life for me or anyone in my family."