Minneapolis police mourn the loss of Chase, who leaped from the roof of a downtown building he and his partner, Eric Lukes, were searching.
Minneapolis police officer Eric Lukes and his canine partner, Chase, quickly made their way through the main floor of the old downtown Jaguar car dealership Monday morning, searching for three people suspected of stealing copper pipe.
They made their way up to the third-story roof, and still no thieves.
Then Chase, off his leash and near the end of sniffing the 50-yard expanse, seemed to sense something. The 100-pound German shepherd took off running and leaped over a 3-foot concrete barrier encircling the rooftop. He plummeted to the ground below and died later at an animal hospital.
Sgt. Dan May of the canine unit said he could only speculate why Chase, who had just turned three in August, went over the roof’s edge when the suspects weren’t in sight.
“He could have heard a noise on the street. I just don’t know,” said May, a member of the unit for 13 years. “He couldn’t see what was on the other side.”
It could have been that Chase did catch a scent, because shortly afterward, another police dog helped nab two of the suspects hiding in ductwork in a stairwell nearby.
Although a half-dozen officers were involved in the search, May said there was no way the suspects would have been apprehended without the dogs.
“The service that the canines provide is invaluable to safeguarding the lives of our officers, and the loss of a canine partner is very hard on the family of the officer, who raise these animals as their own,” Police Chief Tim Dolan said.
It’s the third time since the canine unit started in 1971 that a dog has died in the line of duty. Two other dogs died jumping off roofs, one in the late 1970s and another in 1997, May said.
“I’ve had to put a canine partner down because of illness, and that was very difficult,” May said. “But to see your dog die this way, I can’t imagine.”
May said that Lukes was very distraught, and that he hadn’t a chance to debrief him. Lukes will be on a standard three-day paid leave from the department.