Can you clone a hero? Retired police officer James Symington, owner of the late search and rescue dog and 9-11 hero, Trakr, will receive five answers to that question on Wednesday June 17, 2009. BioArts International, a Northern California biotech company that is offering the first commercial dog cloning service in the world, will be presenting Symington with five puppies – perfect clones of Trakr – at a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles.
Symington won the “Golden Clone Giveaway” contest sponsored by BioArts International in 2008, by writing to the company and explaining why Trakr was an ideal candidate for cloning. The company’s other dog cloning clients have paid an average of $144,000 to clone their canine pets, but Symington will receive his puppy clones of Trakr for free.
BioArts International holds the sole, worldwide license for the cloning of dogs, cats and endangered species, and is partnered with Sooam Biotech Research Foundation of South Korea, the world’s foremost experts in canine cloning. The cloning of Trakr occurred at Sooam under the direction of Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk, who produced the world’s first canine clone in 2005.
“We received many very touching submissions to our contest, describing some truly amazing dogs,” says Lou Hawthorne, CEO of Bio Arts International. “But Trakr’s story blew us away. His many remarkable capabilities were proven beyond all doubt in our nation’s darkest hour – and we’re proud to have cloned him successfully.”
Trakr was credited with hundreds of arrests and recovered more than $1 million in stolen goods during his career as a police search-and-rescue dog. Symington, a police officer at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, arrived with Trakr at Ground Zero as one of the first K9 search and rescue teams on the scene. There, under horrific conditions, Trakr located the last human survivor to be found in the rubble.
“Once in a lifetime, a dog comes along that not only captures the hearts of all he touches but also plays a private role in history,” Symington wrote in his winning essay in the BioArts contest to find the world’s most “cloneworthy dog.”
For his heroic efforts, Trakr was presented with an extraordinary service to humanity award by Dr. Jane Goodall, United Nations “Messenger of Peace,” and was featured in books and magazines dedicated to 9-11 heroes including Dog World and In the Line of Duty.
At an emotional first meeting with the Trakr clones on Sunday, June 14th, Symington observed, “They’re identical – down to the smallest detail. Few dogs are born with exceptional abilities – Trakr was one of those dogs. And if these puppies have the same attributes as Trakr, I plan on putting them in to search and rescue so they can help people the way Trakr did.”
In order to clone Trakr, Dr. Hwang’s team replaced the genes in eggs from unrelated dogs with genes from Trakr, stimulated the resulting “couplets” to develop into embryos, then transferred the embryos to dogs who served as surrogate mothers. After normal pregnancies, they gave birth to puppies that are genetically identical to Trakr, the first of which was born December 8, 2008 and the last on April 4, 2009. All were born and weaned in Seoul, South Korea, and all are in excellent health.
“9-11 was a terrible shock for Korean people as well as Americans,” said Dr. Hwang by email from Seoul, Korea. “These five clones of Trakr, who saved a human life at Ground Zero, are a gift not just to Mr. Symington, but to America and the world.”
Other 9-11 rescue participants reacted positively to news of Trakr’s cloning. Rick Cushman of Saugus, Massachusetts was a volunteer with the Massachusetts Emergency Measures Agency who drove to New York City following the 9-11 attacks to assist with rescue efforts. On the morning of September 12, Cushman was searching the same area as Symington and Trakr when Trakr hit upon the scent of a live person in the rubble.
“That hit led us to Genelle Guzman, the fifth and final survivor,” said Cushman who helped pull the injured woman from the debris. “I am proud to have been involved in this rescue and proud to have worked alongside James and Trakr. If Trakr hadn’t picked up her scent, we might not have known she was there. They helped save her life.”
BioArts International is a biotech startup based in the San Francisco Bay Area, with primary scientific labs in Beijing, custom micro-engineering operations in London, and key scientific partnerships in Seoul, South Korea, and other areas.
The newest officer with the Pike County Sheriff’s Department has four legs and a tail, and is an expert at getting drugs off the streets.
Bo, the golden Labrador K-9 drug dog, joined the sheriff’s department about a month ago and has already been called into service about 30 times. Sheriff Stephen Korte said the dog will be an important tool in fighting drug use and production in the area.
Deputy Michael Starman was certified recently to handle the dog which is trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.
“He will help us find and eliminate narcotics that we wouldn’t find without a dog,” Starman pointed out.
Cpt. Chris Grote, who is also certified to handle K-9 dogs, noted most crime stems from drugs including robbery and theft to purchase or manufacture them and the crimes perpetrated while under the influence.
“We look at having this dog as another tool in our arsenal,” Sheriff Korte said.
Starman explained the dog really is a tool. Unlike a regular pet, Bo spends his day either working with Starman or training with Starman. Bo is currently undergoing training for tracking. This could be beneficial in the event of a lost child or a runaway suspect, etc. Since Bo is a passive dog instead of a “bite” dog, he can be used in cases where the search for a human is needed.
At a year and one-half years-old, Cpt. Grote pointed out that Bo could have a long career aiding the Sheriff’s Department in a number of capacities.
“(Starman) is highly motivated and the dog works hard in training,” Cpt. Grote noted. “The more they train together, the more consistent they will be. They’re progressing rapidly.”
Starman explained that as far is Bo is concerned, finding drugs is like a game. He trains by hunting for a ball that has the drug scent. When he finds the “ball” he scratches at the area. Loveable and full of energy, Bo bounces around Starman’s feet as they “play” with the ball before going on duty.
The Sheriff’s Department was able to obtain a special K-9 patrol car from the Highway Patrol. Sheriff Korte said the vehicle is equipped with a kennel, computerized fan, temperature detectors and remote open. Bo accompanies Starman on every shift.
Sheriff Korte pointed out that despite Bo’s happy, outgoing personality citizens should be cautious around the dog.
“He is a highly-trained tool. He is not like a regular dog. People should treat Bo as they would any police equipment with a ‘hands-off’ approach,” Sheriff Korte said.
This is the first dog the Sheriff’s Department has had since the early 90s. With rural Missouri being among the nation’s leaders in methamphetamine production, Sheriff Korte noted Bo will be invaluable in helping to keep Pike County safe.
“You can’t put a price on it, really. With Bo on the scene, criminals are more reluctant to cause trouble in the course of an investigation,” Cpt. Grote explained.
He added that labradors are natural hunting dogs, so he works a great deal by instinct.
Starman also noted that Bo is treated just like an officer by the State of Missouri. Criminal charges can be filed against anyone who seeks to do harm against the dog.
Cpt. Grote said because of Bo’s pedigree, he could easily work 10 years or more in the field.
“His presence will send a message to those who use or produce drugs in the area,” Cpt. Grote explained. “We’ll be able to step up patrol in areas we know are problematic and around the cooperatives and other places where there is anhydrous ammonia.”
“We’ll be able to be more proactive rather than reactive,” Sheriff Korte added.
The death of a crime fighter: K9 Lobo hit by a car
Riverview Lieutenant Kyle Cockream with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says, “The handler’s life depends on that dog and that dog’s life depends on that handler. They work as a team.”
On Sunday morning half of that team was gone. Lobo, a Hillsborough County sheriff’s office canine, was being boarded with several other canines from the crime fighting K9 unit at the Boyette Animal Hospital in Riverview. The facility is located at 10931 Boyette Road.
Lt. Cockream says “The handlers were out of town at a training session.”
Somehow Lobo got out of his kennel and jumped a seven foot fence. Someone spotted him early Sunday morning and called the sheriff’s office. Cockream says “We got a report from a citizen that they saw a large German shepherd wandering around the area that appeared to have a silver badge hanging from his collar.”
Nearly two dozen deputies searched for Lobo and the sheriff’s office sent out a helicopter to search too. By ten Sunday morning Lobo was discovered near Interstate 75 just north of the Gibsonton exit. Bryan Anderson was there and says “Well the dog came trotting in from the ditch walking in towards the freeway like it was disoriented like it didn’t know where it was going and this woman in the Toyota swerved to try to miss the dog and hit the dog and ended up facing southbound.”
The woman was visibly shaken and upset at the scene over what happened. Meanwhile the sheriff’s office released a statement explaining that the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is saddened by the loss saying the department “Expresses it’s condolences to Deputy Jason Allen and the entire canine section.”
The department also remembered Lobo’s contributions back on February 17th. They point to Lobo’s specialty which was drug detection. Authorities say Lobo helped in a case that led to four men being arrested for allegedly having nearly a thousand pounds of marijuana in the back of a U-Haul truck. The drugs were valued at a million dollars. The bust took place at 4541 Keene Road in Hillsborough County.
Lobo’s handler, Deputy Jason Allen, worked with Lobo for about a year and a half. Lt. Kyle Cockream adds “In our business a canine dog is truly another officer. The deputy spends as much time with that dog as they do with either a co-worker or a family member.”
The newest addition to the Albion Police Department will deter crime just by his presence, Police Chief Dean London said.
He expects Leny, a German shepherd, will prevent some illicit community behavior because of the dog’s ability to sniff out narcotics, and use its nose to find suspects and evidence.
The dog also is a great public relations tool, helping police connect with children.
Leny joined the force June 5. He was out last week for training with his handler, officer Joe Fuller. Leny and Fuller have been certified by American Working Dog Association and Eastern Police Canine Association. Fuller, a 14-year veteran of the Albion Police, also has trained with Upstate K9 and O’Malley’s K9.
He bought Leny as a puppy and soon started teaching him Schutzhund — skills for obedience, tracking and protection. Fuller thought Leny would just be a pet.
But Leny was a quick study and seemed to master the Schutzhund skills. Village Trustee Kevin Sheehan, one of the leaders of the Albion Neighborhood Watch program, suggested Fuller take advanced training with Leny to make him a certified K9 dog.
Leny again showed he was up to the task, learning to sniff out marijuana, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. The dog can also track suspects and locate evidence.
“It’s amazing watching him go from a puppy to where he is now,” Fuller said Monday at the Albion police station. “He is nonstop. He has a drive like you wouldn’t believe.”
Fuller has donated the dog to the village with the stipulation he gets Leny back when he “retires.” Fuller estimated he has paid $10,000 for the dog and its training. He isn’t seeking reimbursement for that money.
He will be on call 24 hours a day and Leny will be available to assist other police agencies. The Orleans County Sheriff’s Department is the only other law enforcement agency in the county with a K9.
The dog can work in schools doing locker sweeps or in a classroom cleared of students. Mostly, Leny will accompany Fuller on his shifts. Albion Police are waiting on an SUV with a cage in the back for Leny. Until then, Leny will stay in the backseat of a Crowne Victoria police car for his shifts with Fuller.
The Orleans County Major Felony Crime Task Force will pay for most of the SUV costs for Leny, an estimated $8,000 to $10,000, London said. St. Mary’s Athletic Club also has contributed $2,000 and Wal-Mart, $1,000, for the vehicle and other equipment for the dog.
Fuller will be paid $10 a day for caring for the dog as his handler. Fuller is in his seventh year as an Orleans County coroner. He also worked four years as school resource officer in Albion, and also taught the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program to fifth-graders.
London said the K9 is the latest police initiative to bring stability to the neighborhoods. He praised the Neighborhood Watch program, the Safe Homes Safe Streets landlord initiative, and PathStone’s project of buying distressed houses, fixing them, and selling them to first-time homebuyers.
“This is another tool,” London said about Leny. “We have another resource.”
A new four-legged officer will soon be sniffing its way around the City of Bridges.
A public hearing was held at Tuesday’s Ottumwa City Council meeting. Police Chief Jim Clark shared the department’s spending plan for dollars obtained through the Justice Assistance Grant Program, commonly referred to as JAG.
About $29,000 will be used to reinstate a K-9 program in Ottumwa.
“Our dog that we’re going to be getting is going to be strictly used for searching for drugs and searching for people. It’s not going to be an aggressive dog, it’s not going to be used to attack,” Chief Clark said.
The last time the department had a K-9 was in the 80s.
The O.P.D. will also use $6,000 dollars of the grant to purchase technology that will track squad cars around the city.
The Wapello County Sheriff’s Department was awarded $6,000 of the JAG money that they will use to purchase fifteen handguns and accessories.
Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson will be the keynote speaker at the graduation of the 46th Norman Police Academy at 2 p.m. Friday at Bethel Baptist Church, 1717 W. Lindsey St.
In all, 15 officers — 12 of whom were hired with money from the public safety dedicated sales tax passed by Norman voters in 2008 — will be honored.
“This is the first step in reinvigorating Community Oriented Policing philosophy within the department,” said Norman Police Chief Phil Cotten. “With the additional personnel funded by the Public Safety Sales Tax over the next six years, we are striving towards having sufficient personnel to allow time for the beat officers to build partnerships within the community to identify and resolve problems.”
Cotten is inviting Norman residents to attend the graduation ceremonies. The officers began the Norman Police Academy Jan. 23. During the 21 weeks of the academy, the new officers received training in all areas of law enforcement, officials said.
Eugene police are hoping to turn up the heat on unsolved cases gone cold for as long as 40 years.
For its newly created “cold case squad,” the Eugene Police Department seeks former sworn law enforcement officers to be on the volunteer team that will dig up old cases and try to bring them to a close.
With about 30 homicide cases still open, ranging from 1969 to 2006, EPD plans to tap the skills of retired officers who have the experience to complete investigations at minimal cost to the city.
“They’re not going to need training in terms of what to look for,” said Sgt. Kathy Flynn. “What we would do is select a case and do a case at a time and go through all the interviews and check for anything that might have been missed — anything that stands out, anything that doesn’t quite fit or catches their eye.”
Detectives in EPD’s Violent Crimes Unit take on cold cases in their spare time, which Flynn said is “very little.” The cases, she said, are time-consuming and get passed on from one detective to another when someone leaves the unit or retires.
However, the aging homicides are not impossible to solve.
Technological advances might help solve cases that now remain mysteries, Flynn said. In some cases, the minuscule quantity or poor quality of DNA or other forensic evidence may not have been enough for investigators years ago but might be all it takes to identify a suspect today.
“We may have evidence we don’t even know we have,” she said.
Flynn said detectives have identified three or four cases that will probably be the first ones volunteers investigate. A likely contender for the top spot is the 1978 homicide case involving 16-year-old Karen Whiteside, who was found murdered at Fairfield Elementary School.
Physical evidence in the case has undergone forensic assessment again in recent years and police believe there is information in the evidence that can help solve it.
Even in cases that are decades old, Flynn said investigators still check in with the victims’ families as the cases are worked.
“We did within the last couple of years contact Karen’s family,” Flynn said. “They’re just happy that it’s not forgotten, that we still have the case and that we’re still looking at it.”
Police would not disclose any additional cases the cold case squad will investigate, but among the unsolved cases in Eugene include the 1997 disappearance of 38-year-old Rebecca Reid, who was taken from the Grocery Cart store where she was a manager. Her body has not been found.
The 2006 homicide deaths of Donald Williams, 65, a millworker found stabbed to death in his home, and Noah Thacker, 21, whose body was found in a fire believed set after his murder, also remain unsolved.
EPD hopes to recruit four volunteers to the squad, which will act similarly to the country’s first all-volunteer cold case squad in Roseburg.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office cold case squad, composed of four men who call themselves the Cold Case Cowboys, solved their first case just five months after starting work on it in January 2003. The Roseburg squad is a four-member team of retired law enforcement officers who have solved two cases in the past six years, said sheriff’s office public information officer Dwes Hutson.
The squad’s first solved case was that of Benny King, whose remains were found 23 years after he was shot to death in 1975. After closing the 28-year-old case, the squad was featured on NBC’s “Dateline,” A&E’s “Cold Case Files” and in a number of national media outlets.
“I know it garnered a whole lot of attention at the time,” Hutson said. “I think it inspired a lot of agencies to organize their own cold case squads, which is a great thing.”
Don LaPlante lives in Keller, Texas, a city of about 38,000 on the northern edge of Fort Worth in Tarrant County. Recently Don LaPlante sent the following e-mail to Galveston Police Chief Charles Wiley.
“I took these photos of one of your officers happily signing autographs for some Special Olympic Athletes at the Opening Ceremonies in Arlington, Texas in May. I was not able to get his name due to the large crowd of athletes gathered around him. Please forward these photos to him.
“I am the father of a Special Olympic Athlete and we appreciate so much the work that Police Officers across the Nation and especially our Officers in Texas do for Special Olympics.”
The officer in the photo referred to by Mr. LaPlante was Sgt. Michael Gray, a member of the police departments Special Operations Group, and a participant in the statewide iniative to raise funds for Special Olympics.
Special Olympics is a worldwide organization made up of passionate, committed individuals from every walk of life, who recognize the value and unique gifts of people with intellectual disabilities, and who, together, share the common belief in dignity, equality and opportunity for ALL people.
Gray and several officers in the Special Ops Group have been involved in several functions both in Galveston and other cities, helping to raise needed funds in support of this very needed and worthy cause. Most recently a fundraiser at Joe’s Crab Shack and Cops On Top at Shipley Donuts.
In May Galveston police officers joined law enforcement officers from throughout Texas participating in The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. And that’s how Don LaPlante from Keller met Michael Gray from Galveston.
LaPlante became involved in Special Olympics 22 years ago when his son Lyndon, a special needs child, was born. Through all these years, LaPlante, a retired firefighter, has worked tirelessly in support of the organization which contributes so much to Lyndon.
Lyndon has participated in various sporting events in Special Olympics since he was 8-years old including Power Lifting, Track and Field, Golf, Basketball, Relay, and Shot Put and is active in sporting events outside Special Olympics.
“Without the Police Officer’s dedication to Special Olympics the program may not have grown to it’s size now. We are very grateful for their selfless acts of kindness,” said LaPlante.
Through Special Olympics Lyndon has been able to fulfill a dream of getting to play and scoring a TD for his Keller High School Football Team.
One Michigan State police trooper will be heading to Louisiana this October.
Trooper Chris Pietrantonio, of the Mount Pleasant State Police Post, took first place in the 231-265 pound heavyweight class and will be competing in the nationals down South this fall.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” Pietrantonio said. “I’m excited to go to the nationals and plan on doing my best.”
Pietrantonio can squat 700 pounds, bench press 505 pounds and shoulder press 335 pounds
Facing off against each other at Graff Chevrolet, 4580 E. Pickard Road, it was all part of the King of the Mountain competition, a strongman competition with sponsors from all over the United States.
The 30 to 40 participants proved their strength to a cheering audience of about 600 by undergoing a series of exercises, including the axle dead lift, log press, farmer’s walk and Atlas stones.
The top three finalists in each weight division qualified for a spot in the October nationals in Louisiana.
Mount Pleasant resident Shawn Allen took first place in the 200-231 pound heavyweight class and will also compete in the nationals.
Allen, who can dead lift 750 pounds, said he was initially apprehensive about the event, but thought it would be fun.
“I was thankful just to do well, it was fun competing,” Allen said. “Everybody supports each other, it’s really neat.”
Several Central Michigan University students also competed.
Lapeer senior Emanuele Solito and Alma junior Nate Hamp competed in the under 200 pounds lightweight class and Shepherd sophomore Ron Shock competed in the super heavyweight 300 pounds and above class.
“I love it,” Shock said. “It makes me happy. I love the competition and I love using my body to make people say ‘oohh, ahh.’”
Hamp competed for his first time and said he plans on coming back.
“You have to try it,” he said. “Its fun and you have nothing to lose. You’re only competing against yourself.”
Jonathon Straus, an Isabella County Sheriff’s deputy, took fourth place in the 200-231 pound heavyweight class.
Although he didn’t qualify for the nationals, he said he plans on doing a few more competitions this year.
“I do this for fun,” he said. “The whole thing is fun.”
Jim Messick, general manager of Graff Chevrolet, said the dealership has been working on this event for about a year and would love to do it again.
“What we wanted to do is come up with a fun family event,” he said. “It’s exciting for everybody – people all over town are coming.”
Three members of the Hobbs Police Department are wagging their tails thanks to an anonymous donation.
Alex, Bach, and Denis, now have added protection when they’re sent in to sniff out a crime scene.
A community member donated more than $2,000 to outfit the Belgian Malinois K-9 Unit with protective vests.
Police use the dogs to search buildings and often the canine officers are sent in to clear an area before a human police officer heads in.
Hobbs Police say the vests will give the dogs a better chance of coming out safely.