After being shot in the face, Anaheim police K-9 officer Bruno returned to his handler, whimpered once and wanted to return to the action.
Even as his handler raced him to the hospital, Bruno’s ears were up and he didn’t want to lie down, police officials said.
“He saved at least one life yesterday,” said Police Capt. Ben Hittesdorf Friday morning during a briefing of the Chief’s Advisory Board.
Police identified the man who shot the dog as Robert Andrew Moreno, 21, an Orange gang member who was released from prison 10 days ago.
His rap sheet includes auto theft, narcotics violations and assault on a custodial officer, officials said.
He was killed Thursday when officers returned fire.
The action began to unfold about 2 p.m. near the intersection of La Palma Avenue and Citron Street when two probation officers approached three men.
At least one of them fired at the probation officer who chased him – and then the other who had detained the suspect who didn’t flee, police said.
Deputy Chief Julian Harvey said the probation officers were shaken up but otherwise okay.
As one of the suspects fled, he confronted a woman who was unloading groceries with her children, ages eight and 10.
The suspect brandished the gun at the children and threatened to kill them if they called police, Hittesdorf said.
About 3:15 p.m., Bruno joined SWAT officers in searching for the suspect. His handler had him on a roughly 20-foot leash when he gave the signal that the suspect was either inside or behind a black trashcan with a lid.
The suspect opened fire.
Following the unrest of 2012, the police department instituted a policy where it would visit family members following an officer-involved shooting to answer any questions they can and provide them with information about the process that follows, including the District Attorney’s Office investigation.
Early Friday morning, police a counselor, a District Attorney’s Office investigator and a Coroner’s official met with Moreno’s mother and aunt for about an hour.
Police say they plan to have counselors in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred – and also at two schools that were on lockdown Thursday.
At Yorba Linda Regional Animal Hospital, where Bruno was in surgery for three hours, surgeons removed a good part of his lung and worked to reconstruct his shattered jaw, said Capt. Bob Conklin. The round missed his aorta by less than an inch, he said.
A six-year veteran, Bruno is Anaheim’s most senior K-9 officer.
“His vital signs were stable,” Conklin said. “The next 18 hours are crucial. The hospital did an amazing job.”
Police K-9 handlers from Riverside, Los Angeles and elsewhere joined police officials and even community members who visited the hospital to show support for Bruno.
His handler was joined by his wife and young child at the hospital. Police officials said Bruno is a beloved member of the family.
Capt. Mark Cyprien said another K9 officer put on scrubs, was by Bruno’s side during the surgery and gave regular reports to his colleague and his family.
“He’s a tough dog who did his job well yesterday,” Cyprien said. “He’s a hero.”
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