End of Watch: June 25, 2004
On Thursday June 24, 2004 at 11:40 PM the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office was notified via 911 communications of gunshots fired from a vehicle in the northwest area of Ft. Pierce, Florida. A Patrol Deputy that responded to the call spotted the suspect vehicle occupied by two subjects. The two subjects fled in the vehicle and attempted to evade the Deputy attempting to make a traffic stop. A short pursuit ensued and both suspects fled from the vehicle on foot after stopping.
Sixteen year Master Deputy Michael Colton of the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office K9 Unit and his 5-year-old K9 partner "Vasko" were already in the area responding to this call. Upon arrival Deputy Colton observed Deputy Tad LeRoy pursuing the suspects on foot. The Deputy pointed in the direction that the two suspects were running which was behind homes in a residential area. One of the suspects ran in front of Deputy Colton's Patrol Vehicle while fleeing. Deputy Colton exited and gave a K9 warning for the suspect to stop, which was ignored. Deputy Colton released K9 "Vasko" who ran behind a home after the suspect. A gunshot was heard in the rear of where the suspect and K9 "Vasko" had run. As Deputy Colton rounded the rear of the residence he observed K9 "Vasko" engaged in a fight with the suspect. Deputy Colton observed a muzzle flash and heard two more gunshots coming from the suspect engaged by "Vasko". Deputy Colton then observed a revolver in the suspect's hand, which the suspect then pointed at him. Having a clear enough shot to avoid striking K9 "Vasko", Deputy Colton returned fire. The suspect lowered the weapon but did not go down. Again engaged by "Vasko", the suspect pointed the gun again at Deputy Colton. Deputy Colton again was able to return fire striking the suspect causing him to collapse as he re-called K9 "Vasko". When "Vasko" returned to him, Deputy Colton observed that the dog was bleeding profusely from a head wound. Deputy Colton maintained cover on the assailant until other Deputies arrived to secure the firearm and suspect.
Deputy Colton radioed dispatch to send an ambulance as well as notifying the emergency veterinary clinic to stand by for his arrival with "Vasko". After securing his firearm with the shift commander, Deputy Colton raced with K9 "Vasko" to the emergency veterinary clinic for treatment.
As Deputy Colton left the incident scene, a Deputy at the scene discovered and released to safety the owner of the vehicle, who had earlier that day been car-jacked and kidnapped by the two suspects. The victim had been locked in the trunk of his own vehicle, which the suspects fled from on foot.
Several K9 Handlers from surrounding Law Enforcement Agencies arrived at the Veterinary clinic with their K9 partners to provide blood for "Vasko", who had suffered significant blood loss from two gunshot wounds to his face. Veterinary Doctors worked feverishly during emergency surgery to locate one of two bullets that had struck Vasko, both fired by the suspect while being apprehended. The blood transfusions provided by the other K9's that had responded to aid "Vasko" helped to strengthen him during the emergency surgery.
K9 "Vasko" survived through the night but sadly at 12:15PM the next day, Friday June 25, 2004, K9 "Vasko" succumbed to his injuries and passed away.
*On Wednesday June 30, 2004 a memorial service was held in the city of Ft. Pierce, Florida to remember the sacrifice of K9 "Vasko". Over 800 Law Enforcement and civilians attended. Fifty One (51) Law Enforcement Agencies were represented with 71 Police K9's in attendance to pay tribute to the courage and heroism of Master Patrol Deputy Michael Colton and his K9 partner "Vasko".