For a week, Channel 9 has shared exclusive footage of the behind-the-scenes access we were granted to a 10-day operation as the U.S. Marshals searched for fugitives in Gaston and York counties.
But there’s one furry member of the task force we haven’t introduced yet — one who has a knack for tracking down those who don’t want to be found.
When it comes to a manhunt, some of the work can only be done by a four-legged fugitive finder. For the Carolinas Regional Task Force, that role is filled by Rino — a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois. His teammate and handler is a deputy U.S. Marshal named Dave.
“He’s coming along very nicely, the team loves him and he loves the team,” Dave told Channel 9′s Genevieve Curtis.
We can’t share Dave’s last name, but since Rino was a puppy, Dave has trained him for one job.
“We are trying to find bad guys every day,” he said.
Unlike other police dogs who could be trained to find explosives, drugs, or to patrol, Rino is laser-focused on one thing: finding people.
“He is only trained to find human scent — whether that’s on a track, tracking someone through a field, trying to find someone in a building,” Dave said.
With a camera on his vest, Rino can go into homes or spaces before the team can. His size and agility help him wiggle into tricky hiding spots so that officers aren’t putting themselves in risky positions. His camera lets Dave know what’s inside.
“He goes under a bed, he goes up into an attic, he can go down into that crawl space we can’t access,” Dave said. “He is a huge officer safety element, he is probably one of the best tools we have.”
#FugitiveFinders Meet Rino, a very special member of the Marshal’s Carolina Task Force. Rino spends his days sniffing out fugitives on the run.
Ahead at 5pm we’ll show you how Rino trains to find those who don’t want to be found 🐾 @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/cD3kMmhJwU
— Genevieve Curtis (@GenevieveonTV) July 27, 2022
Dave says K-9s like Rino help to protect not only the officers, but also the people they are looking for. Often times, they can force those in hiding to wave the white flag quickly.
“Most people, when we are looking for them, they just see the dog and they give up, and that’s what we want,” he said. “We don’t necessarily use the dog if we can avoid it.”
Curtis saw that in action when she rode along with the team during Operation Washout for seven days of tracking fugitives across Gaston and York counties.
A few members of the task force also had K-9s from local agencies who were all working to achieve what they call a “K-9 surrender.” If it takes someone a while to answer the door, Marshals may use the loudspeaker to announce that the dog might come in soon to find them.
During Operation Washout, Curtis saw the door open moments after Marshals made the announcement.
“I can’t tell you how many K-9 surrenders we had and then we end up finding they had a gun inside. And just because the dog was there, they didn’t want to get into it, and came out,” Marshals said.
During the seven-day operation, Rino had four K-9 surrenders and conducted six searches. He also helped bring a peaceful resolution to a SWAT situation in Huntersville.
Marshals said Ryan Luppold had barricaded himself inside a home on July 13. Luppold was wanted on charges of breaking and entering, terrorizing and injury. The standoff ended after several hours when Rino went inside and found him.
“When you watch him work on something you train him so hard for and when he does something successfully, it’s very cool to see,” Dave said.
After a long day of sniffing out people on the run, Rino heads home with Dave to relax and spend some time with Dave’s first K-9, Frago, who retired from the Marshals Service and now has a permanent post under the high chair.
“To see that switch from, ‘Hey I’m working,’ to ‘coming home and taking my vest is off, I can let my hair down’ — it’s really great to see,” Dave said. “How can you not like this job?”
The Marshals currently have three dogs trained to find fugitives. They are adding a fourth in Los Angeles with a goal of placing one on every task force.
(WATCH BELOW: Man wanted in double homicide at home daycare in Kannapolis arrested by US Marshals, sources say)