CRESTVIEW — The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit members have won multiple awards and the Case of the Quarter honor, following last month's United States Police Canine Association’s Region One Field Trials.
Approximately 70 teams took part in the certification event, which the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office in Sebring presented.
Deputy Martin Jennings and K9 Ryker, along with Deputy Sterling Eslinger and K9 Forg, earned second place in the two-man team competition.
Deputy Tim Patterson and K9 Dax placed 12th overall and took fifth place in the search work category.
Patterson and Dax, along with Deputy Tony Kelly and K9 Drako, were awarded Case of the Quarter for tracking down a suspect who had fled into Okaloosa County during a high-speed chase with a Florala, Ala., police officer Feb. 24.
The suspect crashed on Highway 85 near Robinson Road and ran into nearby woods, a handgun falling from his pants’ waist band. Kelly and Drako found the gun and tracked the suspect. They passed a large pasture and two surrounding homes before handing the case to Patterson and Dax.
Dax picked up a scent near the hayfield’s western edge and proceeded through thick brush and standing water to a burned-down residence with an abandoned RV. Dax ran around the RV and barked aggressively. Patterson opened the passenger door and told the suspect to give up or he would release Dax. The suspect came out and was taken into custody.
Inside the suspect’s car were 221 grams of marijuana and a container with nearly 154 grams of liquid codeine and Phenergan, along with loose firearm magazines and ammunition. Two passengers were charged with possession of controlled substances and possession of marijuana.
The driver, Tony Tatum, was charged with fleeing and eluding, displaying a weapon during the commission of a felony, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, burglary to a conveyance, resisting arrest without violence, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and trafficking in opium or derivative.
"Deputy Kelly and Deputy Patterson’s tenacious efforts and ability to work seamlessly with one another throughout the incident made the apprehension of three fleeing fugitives from Alabama possible, and in the process thwarted any further criminal activities that would have undoubtedly been committed," a field trials official said when the award was announced.