Corporal Bryal Flohr, left, gives Rex room as he tracks the scent of a man accused of assault in the alley between South Kansas Avenue and Washington Wednesday afternoon. Daily Leader photo/Jessica Crawford
By LARRY PHILLIPS and JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
Liberal’s newest police officer got his first big workout Wednesday afternoon during 100-degree heat when he had to endure travelling up and down alleyways and streets on foot looking for a man accused of assault.
Rex, the Liberal Police Department’s new K-9 officer, had just returned to Liberal a couple of weeks ago after completing training. He was brought into the pursuit Wednesday after police got a call at 1:53 p.m. from a 23-year-old woman in the 900 block of South Grant saying she had been battered and threatened.
According to a statement released by LPD, responding officers were informed enroute to the call that the alleged suspect had fled the scene.
Investigating officers learned that the woman had been battered by her 19-year-old roommate. She also alleged the man produced a knife while communicating a threat.
“Officers from the Liberal Police Department and Seward County Sheriff’s office quickly set up a perimeter around the area, including the Southgate Mall,” the report noted. “The police department’s K-9 unit responded in an attempt to track down the subject. The subject was not located in the immediate area.”
Authorities said the subject has been identified by witnesses as Antahj Samelle Jenkins. Jenkins is a black male, approximately 6-feet, 5-inches tall and weighs approximately 260 pounds.
As of press time this morning, LPD confirmed Jenkins was still at large.
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Jenkins is asked to call the Liberal Police Department at 626-0150 or the Crime Hotline at 624-4000.
Rex is a 1-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Malinois from the Netherlands. He was selected in San Antonio for Liberal’s K-9 unit after being in the states for only a week.
Rex recently got back from 10 weeks of training with the Kansas Highway Patrol in Topeka with his handler, Corporal Bryan Flohr.
“Basically, when I got the dog, he had some basic obedience, as far as narcotics work, he didn’t have any,” Flohr said. “We did narcotics work from ground zero and worked him up to where he can detect narcotics. We did tracking, that was probably the hardest part of the whole thing. We did that from day one until the last day of the class.”
Rex and Flohr were able to take it easy during the 10 weeks of training, but the week days, Flohr said, were very intense.
“During the week, it was pretty strenuous, physically and mentally,” he said. “It is probably the hardest thing I will ever do in law enforcement.”
Since Rex and Flohr have been home, they have been very busy learning about one another and continuing the training process that Flohr said would be continuous.
“It has been exciting since we have been home,” he said. “I have been very busy with him. It has been amazing. I just have a lot of fun with him just working and doing basic obedience, because we have to keep up on that. We have to make sure we don’t lose anything there. It was a learning experience on everybody’s part.”
It also has been a learning experience for the community, Flohr said, as Rex is not a pet.
“That is hard for people to understand,” he said. “Every time I have him out of the car, people ask if they can pet him. People don’t understand that he is a tool. If people start treating him like a pet, he will become a welfare dog – that is what we don’t want. Because when you get him out of the car to go work, he will walk up to someone and want them to pet him.”
Rex lives with Flohr and his family and, according to Flohr, the new living arrangements are working out quite well.
“He lives with me,” he said. “That way we can bond and have a good partnership between us. The family is excited. Although, they don’t pet him or anything like that because he is not a pet.”
For Flohr, becoming a handler is the highlight of his career. After two-and-a-half years of patiently waiting, he finally got the opportunity he had always dreamed of.
“I put in a proposal two to two and a half years ago to get a dog,” Flohr said. “I was very interested in it. That is what I always wanted to do. That is why I got started in law enforcement, to be a handler.
“I put that proposal in back when we were going through the chief transition,” he explained. “Chief Sill was still the Captain of Investigations. He kept my proposal all these years and decided it was time. He selected me as the handler, and the next thing I knew, I was off to San Antonio to pick out the dog. Then I was off to Topeka, it happened pretty quick.”
Flohr believes Rex has been a great addition to the LPD.
“I think the police department is very happy that we got him,” he said. “We have been working in the community and have some demonstrations coming up very soon.
Rex and Flohr will attend Summerfest at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, June 26, in Blue Bonnet Park.
“We will be out there doing some demonstrations with Rex,” Flohr said. “We are really looking forward to that. Everyone is invited to come out. We have a lot of stuff planned down the road as far as community events. We will be out showing off Rex and having a good time.”