GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP, N.J. – Police on Wednesday mourned a decorated police dog that was killed just after it sank its teeth into the forearm of a robbery suspect it had tracked by scent for a half-mile.
The suspect, 20-year-old Skyler Robinson, swung his arm and the German shepherd named Schultz into the path of a car on Tuesday evening as the dog's handler, Gloucester Township Police Cpl. Mark Pickard, watched. The car struck the dog and grazed Robinson.
The dog died along the roadside within minutes.
The man escaped across the highway only to be caught more than three hours later in a manhunt joined by about 100 police officers from several surrounding towns. The Philadelphia Police Department sent a helicopter to join in the search even though windy, wet weather was grounding other department flights.
"Officer Schultz gave his life for Cpl. Pickard and all the other officers," Gloucester County Police Chief Harry Earle said at a grim news conference Wednesday.
Schultz, a 3 1/2-year-old, joined the force in 2008 and was given his name as the result of an essay contest in a school in the Philadelphia suburb. The winning entry, from a fifth-grader, said the dog should be named after Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, a tough hockey player for the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970s.
The dog lived with Pickard, his wife and three children. Their awards together included a 10th-place finish in a national police dog competition in October in Hammond, La.
Chief Earle said the dog, like the two others on the force, did police work daily and once tracked down a shotgun used in a shooting.
On Tuesday evening, the call was a robbery. Two men had taken about $300 from a Chinese restaurant called Lucky Dragon.
Schultz followed their odor to bushes near Route 42 and pounced on Robinson, Earle said.
Robinson was arrested later that night and charged with inflicting harm on a law enforcement animal, which is punishable in New Jersey by up to five years in prison. He's also charged with robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, resisting arrest and cruelty to animals. He had puncture wounds on his arm where Schultz bit him, and injured an ankle in his getaway, Earle said.
A second man, 19-year-old Evan Scotese, was arrested Wednesday and charged with robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and resisting arrest.
Both are from Washington Township and each was being held in the Camden County Jail on bail of $150,000. It was not clear whether either man had a lawyer.
Earle said police were seeing if the two might be linked to other robberies.
Meanwhile, it was a time of mourning for police in Gloucester Township, where the flag in front of the municipal building was at half-staff on Wednesday.
Earle said donations were rolling in to honor the K-9 crimefighter. He said they'd be used to pay for a memorial and perhaps a new police dog.
Pickard was put on administrative leave to grieve. Earle said he and his family would not be available for comment.
Counseling was being offered to the boy who won the contest to name Schultz two years ago. The chief declined to give the student's name.
Video featuring Schultz and Pickard: http://tinyurl.com/24t2fgf