Las Vegas police were forced to shoot one of their own dogs Monday morning after the animal bit an officer during a foot pursuit.
The police dog, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois named Marco, was in critical but stable condition after emergency surgery Monday afternoon.
An officer shot the K-9 after it bit his partner during a chase in the 300 block of Upland Boulevard, near Alta Drive and Jones Boulevard, about 10:30 a.m., said officer Bill Cassell, a police spokesman. The shooting happened after a Taser stun gun failed to subdue the dog, which resembles a German shepherd.
Cassell said officers originally responded to the nearby 200 block of Wisteria Avenue to investigate reports of a man with a knife. Police said 18-year-old Nguyen Hooker was going door to door and attempted to enter at least one home. Hooker might have been on drugs, police said.
The arriving officers had a "physical confrontation" with Hooker and were unable to immediately arrest him.
A police helicopter eventually located Hooker in a backyard of a home, which police quickly surrounded.
Marco was sent into the backyard, where there was another "physical confrontation" between Hooker and the dog, Cassell said.
The man again escaped from officers and jumped over a block wall. As the dog followed the man over the wall, it immediately came into contact with an officer, Cassell said.
Marco latched onto the officer and would not let go. A Taser was used but it had no effect, said Cassell.
The dog's handler was eventually able to summon the animal. When Marco appeared to be turning back to the injured officer, however, the officer's partner shot the dog once with his handgun.
The dog was taken to an animal clinic where it was stabilized. It was then transported to a local animal trauma center in the south part of the valley, where it underwent successful surgery.
"Obviously the long-term prognosis is still unknown," Cassell said.
The officer, whose name also was not released, was taken to University Medical Center and treated for a dog bite to one of his arms. The injuries were not life threatening, police said.
The names of the officers involved in the shooting and the name of the officer bitten by Marco will be released 48 hours after the shooting, in compliance with department policy.
Hooker was transported to Las Vegas City Jail and booked on charges of obstructing a police officer and resisting a police officer.
If Marco recovers, Cassell said there's no policy preventing him from returning to his K-9 duties.
"As long as the dog has no long-lasting side effects from the incident, I don't see anything that would prevent him coming back," he said. "Every police department in the U.S. has had K-9s at some point bite somebody that it shouldn't bite."
Those evaluations would be made by supervisors in the K-9 unit, he said.
A representative with the United States Police Canine Association based in Florida declined to comment Monday, citing the ongoing police investigation. When asked to comment in general terms, he also declined.
Although instances of police dogs biting officers are uncommon, they are not unheard of.
In December of 2009, a Northern California police officer responding to a burglary shot and killed a police dog after it bit him.
According to a television news report, Alameda police said the canine did not release when commanded by his handler. The officer who was being bitten fired three shots at the dog.
The police dog, a Belgian Malinois named Billy, had been with the department for three years.
The Portland, Ore., area has had two recent instances of police dogs biting officers.
In October 2011, an officer was bitten by a police dog while chasing a burglary suspect near a high school.
According to a Portland TV station, officers responded to a burglary alarm at the high school and set up a perimeter.
As the officers were about to enter the school with two police dogs, two suspects ran out and disappeared into heavy fog.
Police pursued on foot and during the chase - and likely due to the fog - a dog bit one of the officers.
The suspects were not located, the station reported.
In April, a 3-year-old German shepherd named Azi bit a Sherwood, Ore., police officer who had to be taken to the emergency room, according to the Oregonian newspaper.
The police dog bit the officer at the department's headquarters. The officer was not the dog's handler.
The dog went home with his handler after the incident.
The newspaper also reported Azi had nipped the police chief in the nose in 2011.