JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A retired Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer opened up about the pain of losing a K-9.
James "JJ" Thurne told News4Jax that hearing about the shooting death of JSO K-9 Fang brought back memories of his beloved K-9 Quanto.
In June 1999, JSO K-9 Quanto was killed while he was helping with the arrest of an armed robbery suspect, who was later found guilty of armed robbery, attempted murder and killing a police dog, which is a third-degree felony.
Thurne was Quanto’s handler. Though he has retired from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, he now does undercover work, which is why News4Jax has chosen not to show his face to protect his identity. On Tuesday, Thurne played a tribute video of K-9 Quanto and replayed the memory of the night he lost Quanto.
"I come up to him (the suspect), told him to get on the ground and he wouldn’t. I go behind him and grab him. We get into a fight and he reaches back and pulled my gun out of the holster and tries to shoot me," Thurne recounted. "And when he shoots it, he shoots my finger and he shoots my dog."
Thurne took a bullet to his finger, but his K-9 took a fatal shot trying to protect him.
"The worst thing I had to do when the officers carried me to the hospital, on the way, I said, 'Let me call my wife and just let her know.' The hardest thing was telling her about the dog," he said. "I would give up more fingers. It didn’t bother me at all. But the dog... Of course, the kids didn’t understand. They were young."
Thurne said Quanto was more than just a partner.
"It was like a family member. I had three kids, my wife, me and he was like No. 6 in the family of five. My daughter at the time was 4 years old. She could feed him out of her mouth with a little hot dog and he was a huge dog. You have to really have a lot of faith in your dog to let them do that," Thurne said. "You develop a closeness of bond much like your children, sometimes even closer because you're with them."
Thurne said it’s also a loss to the entire community when this happens because K-9s save so many lives.
"The difference between a bad guy doing more crimes is a dog found them, put a stop to it," he said. "Another time, it was a murderer and I got behind a car and he was challenging the officers and I came up behind with the dog, he laid down and gave up. Just the mere presence of a dog is usually all it takes."
Thurne and his family still visit Quanto’s grave.
He said he hopes laws will become stricter on those who kill police dogs. He said he's also thinking of Fang's handler in his time of loss.