Sheriff’s Office loses a life-saving veteran

Deputy: Everybody knew Falco, ‘even the bad guys’

By Kevin Spradlin

ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Cagle said Thursday, one day after saying goodbye to his law enforcement partner of seven years, that he’d lost “a good friend.”

Falco, a Czechoslavakian Shepherd, worked with Cagle as a K-9 in tracking, apprehension, narcotics detection and object retrieval. He was put to sleep Wednesday at Cooley Veterinary Hospital after being diagnosed with cancer.

“He’s done some amazing things,” Cagle said.

From 2003 to 2010, Falco was credited for saving the life of a 3-year-old girl who’d wandered away from home, tracking down a robbery suspect and another man who ran from the scene of an accident after his vehicle struck another, killed the other driver after the suspect had run a red light.

Cagle and Capt. Buddy Miller laughed until they almost cried Thursday inside the Richmond County Judicial Center as they discussed Falco’s value to the sheriff’s office and to the community.

“He was an amazing dog,” said Miller, figuring Falco had tracked down that robbery suspect over a distance of roughly three miles. The man was found hiding in a creek behind a cemetery. Falco walked on top of him, then stopped.

“He just looked at him while he was under water,” Cagle said, and stayed there until officers came to assist.

In a domestic violence case in which a man shot and killed his wife, the man had tried to hide the gun in the woods. Falco found it.

Kevin Spradlin | Richmond County Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Cagle said Falco was "a great partner."

Kevin Spradlin |
Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Cagle said Falco was “a great partner.”

“That dog meant a lot to me,” Cagle said. “He protected me. If he would get into a situation, I was going with him. We had a good strong bond. He was a good dog, a great partner.”

Falco retired from active duty in 2010. Since then, he’d been living with the Cagles with the family’s other pets. Caring for Falco was a 24/7 job, Cagle said, but he had help at home.

“My wife’s an animal lover,” Cagle said of his better half, Georgia. “It was a done deal.”

Falco and Cagle were joined together in Wilmington in 2003 and underwent some 600 hours of training together at Enforcement K9 International under the guidance of Kevin Beck. Over three months, the two officers learned to read each other and anticipate. More importantly, Cagle said, Falco learned to listen.

“He was very obedient,” Cagle said. “He knew who not to bite.”

Miller said it was Falco’s human colleagues that also needed to learn to listen. There was an incident in which they knew drugs were hidden in the backseat of a car, but Falco continually stopped at one of the vehicle’s headlights. Turns out a suspect had hidden drugs behind one of the headlights, “we just didn’t pay enough attention,” Miller said.

Cagle said he was grateful to the sheriff’s office for the opportunity to be a K-9 handler and to his family for the sacrifices they made helping to care for an extra law enforcement officer in the family.

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  • Patricia Wooten

    I’ll keep you in my prayers. They are a part of our families and give unconditional love. My father always told me to watch my dog and if he didn’t like someone stay away from. Truer words were never spoken.

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