DANVILLE — When a K-9 unit bags a suspect, the natural response from their handler is to follow in right after them.
That’s what Mount Vernon Police officer Sarah Wheeler did at a training exercise Friday with her K-9, Laya, and it got her shot.
On active duty since October 2017, Wheeler and Laya have yet to encounter the scenario presented in the training. At the training, the K-9 team of dog and handler, plus their back-up officer, are informed that they are going in on a burglary in progress. Upon opening the door, the handler spots a suspect inside, and lets the dog off-leash to apprehend them.
The handler and back-up go in unaware of a second suspect, concealed behind them.
In most situations, the handler is focused on the dog, and the K-9 unit is protected by their back-up, who is watching everything else. With Laya off-leash holding the suspect, Wheeler said she was still focused on her, when she should have been watching what was around them.
“The dog is fine without you,” Wheeler said, speaking about what she learned in the exercise. “You’ve got to be focused on protecting your own back.”