Canine cops sniff out suspect and evidence after bank heist: Kilo, Fargo get their day, praised by Sheriff Pierini
November 23, 2005
MINDEN – Two police dogs were praised Wednesday for leading Douglas County sheriff’s deputies to a bank robbery suspect hiding in a dog crate.
Steven John Simmons, a 26-year-old Mammoth Lakes resident, was in Douglas County Jail on $250,000 bail charged with robbery with a deadly weapon and other felonies in connection with a holdup Tuesday at the Minden Bank of America.
He was apprehended at 5:30 p.m., less than an hour after the robbery was reported.
Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini did not disclose how much money was taken or if it was all recovered.
Fifteen deputies, administrators and investigators responded to the search in the upscale Mackland subdivision.
“We had deputies at the scene less than 30 seconds after the call,” Pierini said.
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“The response could not have been better. With a gun involved, it was a high risk.”
Pierini credited the department’s patrol dog Kilo with leading deputies to the residence where Simmons was hiding.
A second dog belonging to a volunteer with the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office found the suspect’s clothing, weapon and cash from the robbery.
Bank officials notified the sheriff’s department of the armed robbery at 4:50 p.m. Witnesses said the suspect was dressed in black, wore a ski mask and hooded shirt and carried a loaded Glock handgun.
The suspect fled on foot behind the bank to the subdivision a few blocks away.
Officers were led to the residence through the efforts of Kilo and his handler, Sgt. Joe Duffy.
Duffy said he was off duty when the alarm came and responded immediately with Kilo, a long-haired German shepherd.
His brother, Deputy Robert Duffy, saw the suspect walking through a field behind the bank.
The suspect took off and by that time Duffy had arrived with Kilo.
“We went running off, searching yard to yard,” Duffy said. “It was dark and there was a huge open field with barbed wire fences. I had to hoist the dog over the fence and we could see clear tracks to an open garage door in someone’s back yard.”
Duffy said just before he was ready to release Kilo, the suspect was located in a dog crate next to the garage.
The second dog, Fargo, was at Glenbrook where handlers had been training.
Al Trimarchi, a volunteer with Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, provided use of the dog, trained and certified in California to track blood and weapons.
Duffy contacted Trimarchi who brought the dog to the search.
“Fargo backtracked from the bank through the field and led us to the evidence,” Duffy said.
In addition to the robbery charge, Simmons is being held for ex-felon in possession of a firearm and altering the serial number of a firearm.
On his booking sheet, Simmons listed his employment as the snowboard park at Mammoth Mountain.
Pierini said the incident still was under investigation and Simmons may face federal charges.
He is to appear in East Fork Justice Court on Monday.
Duffy has had Kilo for seven years.
“He’s the county’s dog but he lives with me. I train him and he works with me 10 hours a day, four days a week,” Duffy said. “I love it. It’s something I always wanted to do.”
Duffy said patrol dogs can work about 10 years.
“We’ve had him on the street for about seven years. He’s made multiple arrests. He’s our locating tool and leads us to where the bad guy is. Occasionally he does narcotics and he’s a member of the SWAT team.”
South Lake Tahoe’s only police dog, Hobbes, retired Sept. 30 at the age of 9. Hobbes’ partner, Officer David Allen, said there are plans in the department to bring in another canine officer.
There is one police dog working in the basin for the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, Allen said.
Duffy said Kilo probably can work another two or three years.
“It’s coming to the end of his time,” he said. “Dogs don’t live as long as I would like them to. It’s a stressful job. He needs to be agile, able to jump in and out of buildings. It takes their toll on them.”