One evening in April 2014, a police dog named Laslo was pursuing a burglary suspect through a mobile home park in Spokane Valley.
The suspect got away, largely because a pit bull chained up nearby broke free and clamped its jaws onto Laslo’s hind leg, leaving a deep gash that required six staples. A veterinarian thought Laslo would need surgery, too.
But the energetic German shepherd recovered faster than expected and a few weeks later, he was back to fighting crime. One night in June 2014, he chased another burglary suspect up a tree at the Avista substation in north Spokane, and tracked down a second suspect from an unrelated crime at a nearby business.
“He’s been a great dog,” said Laslo’s handler, Jeff Thurman of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. “He’s really a force multiplier.”
Sunday is Laslo’s last day on the force and Thurman’s last day as a corporal and K-9 handler. Thurman is being promoted to detective and adopting Laslo as a family pet.
The pair have spent four years as law enforcement partners, with Laslo assisting in more than 470 apprehensions.
Deputies say Laslo is unusually talented at sniffing out crime, and that he “contacts” suspects with just the right amount of force. A key player in countless news stories, his name has regularly appeared in The Spokesman-Review and on local TV stations.
“I’ve been around a ton of dogs, but that dog right there, and Thurman, that team is just incredible,” said Deputy Mark Gregory, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman. “It’s a recipe for greatness.”
At 7, Laslo is retiring a year or two younger than most police dogs. He’s still eager to work, but Thurman said he’s been through enough.
In July 2013, Laslo was sent to apprehend an assault suspect hiding in a camper in Liberty Lake. The man struck Laslo in the face with his arm, which was wrapped in a hard cast, several times until the dog’s nose bled.
Several months later, Laslo was attacked again during a SWAT raid on the South Hill. And in January 2016, Laslo and Thurman encountered two more pit bulls in Spokane Valley. Laslo, who was wearing a ballistic vest, was uninjured after one dog tried to bite his neck, while Thurman received a puncture wound on his leg.
Laslo is one of five dogs working for the Sheriff’s Office, including a new bomb-sniffing shepherd named Chloe. Also retiring this week are K-9 Jet and his handler, Deputy Bob Bond, who has worked in law enforcement for more than 30 years.
The dogs are highly trained and respond to about 10 German commands. When Thurman shouts “Fuss!” for example, Laslo waits obediently by his side. “Sitz!” and he sits. “Platz!” and he lies down.
Thurman said the dogs are indispensable partners in the effort to keep Spokane County safe.
In many cases where a suspect runs away, “had it not been for the K-9, we might never have known who they were,” Thurman said. “It’s a lot safer for the community, a lot safer for the deputies out here searching.”
Thurman, a 21-year law enforcement veteran, will be one of the first detectives on Spokane Valley’s new Burglary Task Force. The job will be a little easier, he said, with Laslo waiting for him at home.
“He’s a real social dog,” Thurman said. “He knows the difference between work and home life.”
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