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Hero Down: San Joaquin County Sheriff’s K9 Duke Stabbed To Death By Burglary Suspect In Railyard

Tracy, CA – San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office (SJCSO) K9 Duke died in the line of duty on Feb. 19 after being stabbed while trying to apprehend a burglary suspect.

The incident occurred in a railyard located near Brichetto Road and Banta Road at approximately 12:15 p.m., KCRA reported.

San Joaquin County Sheriff Patrick Withrow said deputies responded to the scene to assist the Tracy Police Department (TPD) with a burglary investigation after the officers spotted two suspects fleeing on foot.

“We responded with our K9 because they did not have one on duty at the time,” Sheriff Withrow explained.

When SJCSO Deputy Michael Stewart and K9 Duke arrived at the scene, one of the suspects broke into the engine room of one of the trains and barricaded himself inside a compartment, KCRA reported.

Deputies managed to force the door to the compartment open slightly, providing just enough room for K9 Duke to access the space so he could apprehend the suspect, Sheriff Withrow said.

But when K9 Duke made entry, the barricaded suspect lashed out with a knife and stabbed him repeatedly, KCRA reported.

“As the K9 engaged the suspect, the suspect had a weapon on him and wounded our dog and dog began howling in pain,” Sheriff Withrow said.

Deputies were able to force their way into the compartment and tased the suspect before he was ultimately subdued and taken into custody, KCRA reported.

K9 Duke was rushed to Central Valley Veterinarian Hospital in Manteca, where he succumbed to his wounds.

Sheriff Withrow said the suspect was hospitalized and will be charged in connection with killing K9 Duke, KABC reported.

He has since been identified as 30-year-old Rafael Montoya-Velazquez, according to KTXL.

The sheriff’s office confirmed the beloved K9’s tragic death in a press release.

“K9 Duke was deployed on a barricaded burglary suspect who had been given the opportunity to surrender,” the agency said. “Sadly, K9 Duke was killed while apprehending the suspect. K9 Duke’s courageous actions quite possibly saved a deputy from being killed.”

“Our hearts are heavy,” the SJCSO tweeted later that afternoon. “Without the courageous actions of K9 Duke and the ability to deploy on a barricaded suspect who was given the ability to surrender, it could have easily been the life of a deputy that was lost today. We wish it wasn’t a life taken at all.”

K9 Duke served the SJCSO for approximately six years, KCRA reported.

Sheriff Withrow said losing a K9 is no different than losing a family member.

“We love them deeply. We spend a good part of our lives with them in a car and at home, so it’s devastating not only to our handler, his team, but our entire family here at the sheriff’s office,” he told KCRA. “We’re just blessed Duke was there today to make sure that Mike got to go home to his family.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Stewart in the loss of K9 Duke.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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