End of Watch: The Death of K9 Wolf

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From the book, “Some Gave All,” coming soon, by Mike Simmons

James O’hara is from Pensacola. He has roots here and he belongs here. He is part of Pensacola. James grew up Montclair. The neighborhood was full of kids – running, playing ball, riding bikes. It was every child’s dream to grow up in such a neighborhood.  It was also located 487 yards away from a beautifully wooded spot that would make a great cemetery for pets…someday.

In the first part of April 1995, James moved to the police side of the criminal justice world when he became a deputy sheriff. He loved it! But…he didn’t give up his service to the fire department, leading Brent crew as a captain.

A K-9 officer? Did he want to do that? That was not an answer that he could make alone. Joining the K-9 Corps is an “all-in-the-family” ordeal. It is not a 40-hour a week job. Officer and dog work together, train together and live together…along with the officer’s wife (or husband) and kids. It becomes part of the family. Not to worry, though. James and his family welcomed the new member.

Wolf. What a name for a police K9! It even sounds intimidating. And he had the looks to back it up. Wolf, the newest member of the Escambia County Sheriff’s K9 Corps and the newest member of the O’Hara family, was a beautiful black and tan German Shepherd. He was born in Germany on December 14, 1991. When he stood up and had his attention on something – or someone – his gaze was menacing. It was enough to make a bad guy turn good!

On February 23, 1998, Deputy Selzer Pickett was on patrol when, at 4:15 pm, he saw it. But honestly, it wasn’t hard to pick out. You would have thought that 17-year-old Maurice Griggs would have chosen a car to steal that stood out less than a red Mustang. Deputy Pickett fell in behind and flipped on the lights. The chase was on. For two hours, deputies pursued the fleeing Mustang. Lucky or skilled – probably both – Griggs managed to keep from his pursuers. Then, at a wooded swampy area near the Montclair subdivision, he abandoned the car and ran into the swamp.

I don’t know why it is, but there always seems to be a young man that thinks he is so fast that he will be the first person in the history of the world to outrun a pursuing K9. But, like all the others, Griggs wasn’t fast enough. Just as he was trained, Wolf sank his teeth deep into the upper thigh of the criminal. That stopped the pursuit. If Griggs would have given up, Wolf, as he is trained to do, would have simply held until Deputy O’Hara arrived.

In an instant, in an act of selfish cowardice, Griggs, who was armed, pulled a semi-automatic pistol and shot Wolf in the face. Wolf had only hours to live. In those few moments, one wonders what went through this warrior’s mind. “What happened? I was just playing “bite the bad guy like my master told me to do. I just hope my master is okay.” A dog’s sense of loyalty is on another level from humans. Wolf was rushed to the hospital and, despite the best efforts of the doctors, succumbed to his injuries

Christopher O’Hara at Wolf’s graveside

Other officers took Griggs into custody.

The whole community was affected. Wolf’s funeral was attended by hundreds of law enforcement officers, many with their K9s by their sides.

He was convicted of several charges and sentenced to five years in prison.

K9 Wolf had served with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office for three years. His grave is located in the Pet Haven Cemetery, 487 yards from James’ boyhood home.

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