Under Fire – Pretoria Dog Unit, South Africa

 

Insp. Weilbach & PSD Kira

Insp. Weilbach & PSD Kira

 

The following incident was related to me by Inspector Guy Weilbach (pictured above) of the South African Police Service.

He and his partner, Police Service Dog Kira, are members of the Pretoria Dog Unit, and in mid-June of 2008 they were involved in an incident that saw the loss of one of their own.  In sharing his experience, Inspector Weilbach proves police officers have to be ever vigilant.   

 

Senior Cop Killed in Ambush

South Africa has had a spate of ATM bombings where commercial explosives are used to blow open the safes of ATM machines. Usually, the suspects are between ten and fifteen in number. All are armed with AK47’s and at some scenes they have used a Light Machine Gun (Similar to the American M60). They use fast cars like the Audi A4 or the BMW 330i Ext for the getaway. They hit in the early hours of the morning. They do not hesitate to shoot anyone who confronts them.

One situation that we were involved in was during June 2008. We were in a field helping the local police station tracking housebreakers with the help of Kira. We found the stolen property that the suspects dumped after hearing or seeing us. The suspects ran to a main road where a vehicle was waiting for them and sped off.

We all (4 of us and 2 dogs) walked back to our vehicles and we talked for a while like police officers can do at 02:00 in the morning. We received a call that there was a person tampering with an ATM at one of the filling stations nearby. We answered the call as it was about 1 km from us. My crew and I (with Kira and Zoe) drove in front and the two police officers from the local police station drove behind us. I did not activate the vehicle emergency lights or sirens as there was no traffic and it was in a residential area.

The ATM was at a filling station next to a shopping mall. I drove down the road with the shopping mall on my right side and was approaching the filling station when I saw movement from the corner of my eye. When I looked, I saw a person standing in the shadows and saw the familiar shape of a AK47 magazine. I immediately knew it was an ambush.

The guy stepped forward and I saw the muzzle flash from the AK47. Training kicked in and I gunned my Police vehicle to the floor because I knew that there would be more shots fired. I turned by back to my door to expose my bulletproof vest as much as possible to the oncoming rounds, and I lowered my head under the dash of the vehicle. I just kept on going straight. As my vehicle went past the filling station the ATM detonated, hitting my vehicle with shrapnel. I just kept on going. I could hear rounds hitting the vehicle and saw sparks in front of me as rounds were hitting the road. I crossed a road and turned onto a side road behind some houses and stopped.

My partner and I sat there for a second and checked if we were hit and got out to check the dogs. Luckily we were all okay. The dogs sat up straight knowing that some serious sh*t just happened. My crew and I grabbed our assault rifles (5.56mm x 45 mm) and moved tactically to the corner to assess the situation. We could not see the other police vehicle that was behind us. The street was filled with white smoke from the explosion, and the suspects kept on firing.  I could see the movement of people but could not identify a target. I knew the other police officers were somewhere in the cloud of smoke. We did not risk firing and maybe hitting one of our colleagues.  The suspects then sped off and my crew and I took chase. They had a well planned escape route and we lost them. When we returned to the scene we found one of the police officers was shot in the head. It was a terrible ordeal.

Kira and myself carry on trying to catch bad guys. We have been in some other shooting incidents here and there and been involved in a vehicle accident once. But that is the life of a dog handler in South Africa. We have to go in where the others don’t want to.

 

Thank you, Insp. Weilbach, for sharing your story with us.  I’m sure I speak for all police officers when I say we are very sorry to hear of the loss of your comrade, Inspector Jaco Botha, 37, of the Pretoria Police Service.

Full news coverage of this incident can be read at The Pretoria News.

 

 

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