K-9 Jett, who after retirement became a pet to his former handler, Sgt. Tom Lazure, died on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019.
By Ronni Newton
The West Hartford Police Department is mourning the passing of a hero – a four-legged hero who along with his handler, Sgt. Tom Lazure, received many accolades and recognition throughout their partnership.
K-9 Jett initially retired from the West Hartford Police Department on Jan. 1, 2018, just after Lazure was promoted from officer to sergeant, but the dog was briefly brought back into service earlier in 2019, with Lazure handling him. Jett, however, was forced back into retirement in May when he was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Jett initially responded well to treatment, but on Aug. 11 the Lazure family made the difficult and painful decision to put the 9-year-old jet-black German Shepherd to sleep.
On Tuesday, Lazure said he was compiling photos and recalling and talking about the good times he had with Jett.
According to West Hartford Police, officers as well as West Hartford Fire Department members, both on and off duty, responded to Veterinary Specialists on North Main Street in West Hartford Sunday night to give the dog, who is considered a retired officer, a final salute and to show their support to the Lazure family.
Lazure was by Jett’s side when the dog was euthanized just before 10 p.m. Sunday.
“Such a great K-9,” Lazure told We-Ha.com. “One of the last things I told him was to find me on the other side. He looked like he accepted that message and was ready to get back to work in heaven.”
Lazure – who joined the West Hartford Police Department in 2004 – even before being partnered with Jett became known for the roadside delivery of a baby girl in West Hartford. As a team, the pair became known and respected throughout the state, the region, and even nationally.
Jett was born in the Czech Republic in 2010 and was trained through the Connecticut Police Work Dog Association in patrol work, narcotics, and evidence recovery. He was not even 2 when he joined the West Hartford Police Department in 2011.
Together Lazure and Jett received many prestigious awards, including the Daniel Wasson Memorial Canine Award (twice) and were honored at Fenway Park in 2015 by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and its Foundation as one of six “Hero K-9’s” in New England during a ceremony prior to a Red Sox game. They were also the People’s Choice Top K-9 Unit in the New England region.
Since the Wasson Award – given annually to the top K-9 team in the state – was established in 1993, K-9 Jett is one of only two K-9s to receive the honor more than once.
The award is given in honor of Daniel Wasson, a Milford, CT, police K-9 handler who was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1987. Two other West Hartford Police K-9s have also previously been given this award – K-9 Luke in 2002 and K-9 Kora in 2005.
Jett earned the “Hero K-9” award for locating and tracking an armed suspect who had tried to shoot a Hartford Police officer. K-9 Jett, under the direction of Lazure, tracked the dangerous felon who was a considerable distance away and outside the perimeter. The suspect was taken down without any injury to officers and the gun was recovered.
K-9 Jett has had many other successes throughout his career. A few highlights provided by Lazure at the time Jett retired include:
- His first “find” was a missing 16-year-old who had tried to commit suicide by overdosing and was hiding alone in the woods in the middle of the winter. It was freezing cold and the juvenile was seizing as a result of the overdose, and Lazure said likely would have died if not found.
- K-9 Jett was deployed on I-84 and along with Lazure took down a suspect who had stolen a vehicle and assaulted police officers.
- K-9 Jett tracked and located suspects who had broken into hundreds of vehicles throughout the Hartford area and assisted in their apprehension.
- K-9 Jett, who had been inside Lazure’s cruiser, was deployed to chase down a sexual assault suspect who was attempting to flee arresting officers. Jett helped take the suspect into custody.
- K-9 Jett located and apprehended a suspect who had stolen a car and crashed it into a business. During the chase both Lazure and Jett fell into icy waters and became submerged, but were still able to apprehend the fleeing felon about a mile away from the crime scene.
- Lazure and Jett located a vehicle suspected of being involved in a shooting. Officers drew their guns and commanded the occupants to exit. Guns as well as drugs were found in the vehicle. Lazure said that the suspect admitted he did not flee because he heard K-9 Jett barking. Lazure said he told the suspect “it was his first good decision behind a long list of bad ones that he would be held accountable for.”
- K-9 Jett put his evidence-finding skills to the test, locating two flat-screen TVs that a suspect in a home invasion had hidden in the woods, buried under leaves. Electronics and other valuables were also recovered.
- In 2017, K-9 Jett located a cognitively-impaired man who had gone missing from a long-term care facility in West Hartford. Staff at the facility did not think the man could have made it into the nearby woods due to his physical disabilities, but just 7 minutes after being deployed Jett found the man, who had indeed made it to the dense woods and had fallen, sustaining minor injuries.
- During his brief return from retirement, K-9 Jett and Lazure successfully completed a lengthy track of a suspect who had burglarized a home while the family was sleeping inside.
K-9 units are a regional resource, and the pair responded to incidents throughout the area including in Suffield, Middletown, Vernon, and Waterbury. They also assisted the FBI, DEA, Hartford Shooting Task Force, and narcotics units and other agencies statewide.
“In all K-9 Jett has located dozens of wanted suspects, recovered copious amounts of narcotics, recovered several illegal weapons, and found several missing people. He’s well known throughout the entire state, has a fan base in West Hartford among citizens and children, and is known nationally in the K-9 community,” Lazure said in an interview at the time of Jett’s retirement.
Jett, who also participated in activities with the Community Relations Division, visited schools, scout troops, the Citizen’s Police Academy, and even children’s birthday parties.
He has been featured in several books including “K-9 Commando,” and was featured in the Connecticut Wolfpack K-9 Heroes calendar.
Even as a retiree, K-9 Jett continued to promote the work of K-9 teams on a national level. Lazure and Jett appeared on the “Law Enforcement Heroes” episode of the “Pickler and Ben” TV show on First Responders Day in February 2018. The YouTube clip of the segment (see below) has received more than 1.9 million views.
In 2019, K-9 Jett and Lazure were the second team from West Hartford to be honored with the “Stubby Award” from the Governor’s Foot Guard. The award is named for “Sergeant Stubby,” a decorated dog who served in World War I. The late West Hartford Police K-9 Kora, and his handler [now] Lt. Eric Rocheleau, received the award in 2012.
Being a K-9 handler has other benefits. Lazure, who was trained in K-9 first aid, in 2012 was dispatched to assist another dog in distress – a 10-year-old Shih-Tzu who was choking on a treat. He used a modified Heimlich maneuver, pressing into the canine’s rib cage, to loosen the foreign object, and the dog, Harry, was soon breathing again. Lazure received PETA’s Compassionate Action Award for the rescue, and the story garnered national media attention, including in TIME Magazine, and brought Lazure and West Hartford Police into the national spotlight.
The Connecticut Work Dog Association also issued a statement announcing the passing of K-9 Jett, highlighting his storied career.
“Officer Lazure and K-9 Jett have been members of the Connecticut Police Work Dog Association joining as Lifetime members on Oct. 25, 2011. R.I.P. Jett, your legacy will always be remembered,” the statement reads.
The West Hartford Police Department recently obtained two new K-9s – Lotti and Islay. The two young dogs, with their handlers Off. Brian Delgrande and Off. Andrew Teeter, are currently the department’s two active K-9 teams. The team of Off. Nick Roman and K-9 Axel have been out while recovering from an injury.
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