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Sweetwater P.D. recruits new four-legged officer

A bloodhound named Gunner will soon join the department’s K-9 unit, where he will work with Officer Jenna Mendez.

By Rodolfo Roman
Special to The Miami Herald

The Sweetwater police department has added a furry new member to its team.

Gunner, a five month old bloodhound, is the newest addition to the department’s K-9 unit. He was donated to the city in August, but was officially introduced in a ceremony at Sweetwater Elementary a few weeks ago.

The Jimmy Ryce Foundation donated the dog to the city. Gunner will replace the K-9 unit’s old dog, Nicole, which was retired three years ago because of old age. The latter pooch is being taken care of by its former handler, retired Sweetwater police officer Sergio Cabrera.

The Foundation is named after 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce who was kidnapped and killed in 1995. Its efforts are to help free more children from sexual predators.

Gunner’s handler will be K-9 officer Jenna Mendez who joined the squad in January.

“He will be used for missing and abducted children, adults, and missing elderly,” said Mendez. “He can also be used in crimes.”

For now, Gunner is being trained in Palm Beach County. The pooch will start the full-time, four-month academy when he turns one. Gunner will be a tracking dog and travels to work with Mendez. Currently, the K-9 unit has five dogs including Gunner. The others are German or Belgian shepherds. To get the dog donated, Mendez submitted an application.

Mayor Manny Maroño said the dog will be useful for the city.

“I feel great having it,” he said. “Having small kids myself you understand the importance of having a tool like this. This dog is one of the best.”

Both Maroño and Mendez traveled to Tallahassee to pick up the dog. Mendez said the squad welcomes the dog with open arms.

“The city of Sweetwater is committed to helping our community, and Gunner and I our willing to travel to anywhere we are needed, not just our city,” she said.

Few police departments have bloodhounds, said Mendez. The dog will be shared with other agencies.

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