Hero cop’s battle to save shocked canine partner

2014-03-13 00:00

A DURBAN police dog handler ran around a bush yesterday to find a suspect fatally electrocuted, and his dog tangled in the same live wires.

Sergeant Shawn Jooste was thrown over a metre in the air by the powerful voltage, as he tried to pull his German Shepherd, Khulu, from the cables on a bushy riverbank in Malvern.

Despite shock-related injuries, Jooste refused medical care, staggered to his car with the dog, and drove at “high speed” to a police vet — before finally collapsing into an ambulance.

But Khulu died later of the shock — leaving his long-time handler distraught in hospital.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng told The Witness that Jooste (38) and another SAPS K-9 handler were pursuing three cable theft suspects — who were also wanted on charges of serious assault — near the M7 highway.

He said one suspect fled from Jooste and Khulu in the direction of the Portuguese Club and “ran into illegal and unprotected electricity cables running to an informal settlement — and so did Khulu. They were both electrocuted”.

SAPS spokesperson captain Thulani Zwane said the victim’s identity was “unknown at this stage”. However, he said the SAPS handler arrested a 19-year-old suspect, “who will be charged for assault with an intent to inflict grievous bodily harm and possession of copper cables suspected to be stolen”.

Metro South dog unit officer Captain Greg Beavon said the “tragic incident” illustrated the courage of handlers and dogs, and also “shows how incredibly dangerous cable theft and illegal connections can be for everyone.”

One policeman at the scene — who asked not to be named for fear of protocol breaches — said, “He lit himself up trying to save his dog. Shawn needed treatment, but he somehow drove at high speed to get Khulu to a police vet before accepting medical treatment for himself — he actually needed an ambulance,” he said.

The policeman said stolen cable attached to shack dwellings had been stripped of its insulation to boost power, and illegally connected to power lines along the M7.

“The suspect was not from this area — he didn’t know where the electricity wires were lying,” he said.

“The dog did not tackle the suspect — there were no bite marks; he was ahead of Shawn on a nine-metre puppy line, and got entangled in the wire. Shawn is very upset.”

Well known to communities south of Durban, including Amanzimtoti, Jooste — a married father from the Bluff — has received a number of commendations for his arrests of armed robbers, and of cable thieves in particular.

The policeman said Jooste had been sedated and treated for shock-related injuries at St Augustine’s Hospital.

The Witness understands that the Bellair SAPS detective branch is investigating the incident.

Another dog handler said Khulu — who had a string of arrests to his credit — would likely be memorialised on an honours wall at the Kloof SPCA.

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