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K-9 Teams

Sheriff David Taylor said the comments made by a Lukesville Community assault suspect who had been chased through trails and briars by sheriff’s office bloodhounds surprised him a little. “He said, ‘Sheriff, that’s a good dog you got there,’ Taylor said with a laugh. “I am proud of the dogs and proud of the handlers. They do an excellent job.” So far this year, the bloodhounds have been on 68 calls and made 28 finds. Not all calls are for wanted suspects. Some are for missing persons. Cpl. Russell Vinson and Cpl. Randy Manus are the two bloodhound handlers. Vinson has Jo Jo, a female about 19 months old. Manus’ bloodhound, Taylor, also a female, is 14 months old. Both dogs live with their handlers. Manus also has Kira, the sheriff’s office drug dog. Manus said as part of Taylor’s training, he sometimes has his 8-year-old son hide and lets Kira find him. Ninety-pound Jo Jo has been in service with the sheriff’s office for over a year. Taylor is in training and currently also responds to all calls. “We started training Jo Jo when she was 12 weeks old,” Vinson said. “We would run tracks five days a week for the first three or four months.” Nearly every Wednesday, Vinson and Manus travel to Kings Mountain State Park and join several other agencies who train with Randy Clinton, a longtime bloodhound handler with the York County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s a big area, a lot of woods, a place where we can go to train and not really have a lot of distractions,” Vinson said. “Sometimes we train over there in the city limits to get training in a city environment.” On Oct. 27, the bloodhounds were called to Buffalo after a break-in was reported at one of the Li’L Cricket stores. A surveillance video showed a man taking beer and cigarettes. Suspect Joshua Travis Trammell, 21, of 1318 Main St., was tracked back to his home. “We found his jacket, an empty carton of cigarettes and a beer sitting on the back steps,” Vinson said. A relative said Trammell had left for Columbia. Union County deputies radioed to Newberry to be on the lookout for the vehicle Trammel was in. He was stopped there and items from the break-in were found in the car. It was the second time Trammell had been tracked and located by a bloodhound. The first time was while Trammell was living on Buffalo-West Springs Highway. Officers had a warrant for his arrest and when they tried to serve it he ran out the back door. They caught him hiding near a creek. Several months ago, the bloodhounds tracked an armed robbery suspect for Union Public Safety officers. A Lakeside Drive resident came out to go to work early one morning and was approached by a masked man with a gun. The victim confronted the robber, who fled into the woods. The robber had a cohort with him who also fled. “We came up to a creek and found two guns they had hidden,” Vinson said. “We got (officers) to come and secure the guns and we started the track back. It wasn’t about 25 yards- they were lying in the creek and jumped up and run. We caught both of them, recovered two guns and a mask.” The bloodhounds were used after a break-in at the YMCA and recovered computers the suspects had hidden in the woods. This year they have recovered a total of three handguns and one shotgun that a mental patient had hidden. After a break-in on S.C. 215, the bloodhounds recovered money and coins the suspects had hidden. In all, Vinson said around $1,200 in property had been located by the dogs. Vinson said the Lukesville Community suspect stood up in the woods and yelled, “Here I am come get me. Don’t turn that dog loose on me.” “He told us he had done everything he could do (to get away),” Vinson said. The suspect left his residence and took a trail to Duncan Avenue to a spot where folks hang out and drink beer. He hit another trail and came out in a trailer park behind Buffalo Pawn Shop. He then ran back to the road near the post office, continued on to Small’s Storage buildings, to WBCU’s tower site and came out at Paragon Plastics, where he was apprehended. This past summer, the bloodhounds tracked some missing teen-agers on the Enoree River seven miles. On Oct. 8, the bloodhounds helped capture a suspect in metal theft at Spectra plant on Industrial Park road. Vinson said a bloodhound is the only dog considered an expert witness in court. He said a German Shepherd has 200 million scent receptacles in his nose. A bloodhound has over 300 million. A human being has five million. “Bloodhounds are more cold-nosed- able to track older tracks,” Vinson said. “In training we have run tracks 48 hours old.” Vinson and Manus come to work every day prepared to use their dogs. For the colder temperatures they are dressed in camouflage pants, black sheriff’s office sweatshirts and boots. A shoulder harness better holds their gun in place and includes a light, handcuff pouch and extra magazines. Taylor said all deputies have had training in how to maintain and protect a scene so that it will benefit the dogs, how to set up a perimeter and that it is important to get a good description of the suspect. “This has been very successful, even more than I anticipated it was going to be,” Taylor said.
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