Sad day for SAPS K9 units after two dogs killed in gun battle with wanted killers
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DURBAN - TRIBUTES have been pouring in for members of the SAPS K9 unit after two dogs were killed during a search for armed suspects in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.
Metro Police dog handler, Inspector Vick Maharaj, said the bond between an officer and his four-legged partner can be compared to a bond between a parent and a child.
Maharaj, who has been a handler for the last 17 years, said the first step of training is forming a bond between handler and dog.
"We for them. We build trust with them. That furry baby to his handler, is everything," he said. Maharaj said when his own patrol dog passed away, he cried openly.
"I still have his box with his ashes in," he said.
K9s; Shaka and Simba were killed following a shoot-out with heavily armed suspects yesterday afternoon.
Police intercepted the gang of four men, wanted in connection with the murder of Ndwedwe acting station commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ndawonde, who was shot dead last month.
His vehicle then crashed into a nearby fence along the R614 road.
National SAPS spokesperson, Colonel Katlego Mogale, said Lieutenant Colonel Ndawonde sustained multiple gunshot wounds and his 9mm service pistol and an R-5 automatic rifle were taken by the suspects.
She said intelligence information was received on the whereabouts of the suspects involved in Ndawonde’s murder
"The suspects were observed while travelling in the identified maroon Jeep coming from Maqongqo towards Pietermaritzburg. The members stopped the vehicle and the suspects opened fire which resulted in a shootout," she said.
Two suspects jumped out of the vehicle and fled towards the nearby bushes while the other two tried to drive off, resulting in the vehicle careening off the road and down into a ditch.
Mogale said closer inspection revealed that the suspect driver had been fatally wounded.
"In the continuing shoot-out, one suspect proved to have been injured as he left a trail of blood as they disappeared into the sugar cane fields. Due to the complex terrain, assistance of the Pietermaritzburg K9 was enlisted," she said.
A SAPS officer and his dog Shaka entered the sugar cane field following the trail made by the two suspects.
Mogale said a suspect was located and was engaged by Shaka.
"The suspect fatally shot the dog as he also fired at the members. The suspect was fatally shot when the members returned fire.
“Another K9 member with a dog, Simba joined the team in locating the third suspect. Simba engaged the suspect but unfortunately was fatally wounded and so was the suspect. The suspect was found to have been in possession of an unlicensed firearm," Mogale said.
With the assistance of the Airwing and another K9 member with his dog Duke tracked the fourth suspect.
The suspect shot Duke and managed to flee deeper into the dense bushes.
"Duke, was airlifted to hospital for urgent medical assistance and is recovering,“ Mogale said.
She added that the team also recovered four unlicensed firearms including an R4 rifle, an R5 rifle and two 9mm pistols, live rounds, one dashboard blue light and a box of ammunition.
Police have opened 13 counts of attempted murder, possession of unlicensed firearm and ammunition, malicious damage to property and inquest dockets were opened for investigation.
The Provincial Head of DPCI in KwaZulu-Natal, Major General Lesetja Senona lauded the multi-disciplinary team for ensuring that justice has been brought to the Ndawonde family. He also sent his condolences to K9 Pietermaritzburg for the loss suffered with the demise of Shaka and Simba in the line of duty.
"We shall continue to ensure that communities are protected from these criminals and justice prevails," he said.