Jamie Taylor/river news
From left, RPD officer Mark Raddatz accepts the leash of his new K-9 partner Jason from Kara Weiland, widow of fallen Everest Metro Det. Jason Weiland, as her daughters Anna and Ella look on. The K-9 is named in memory of Det. Weiland.
11/23/2019 7:30:00 AM RPD welcomes second K-9 to its ranks 'Jason' named in memory of Everest Metro detective
In a simple ceremony Wednesday evening, Rhinelander residents learned about the legacy of an Everest Metro detective killed in the line of duty March 22, 2017 as they welcomed a new K-9 member to the Rhinelander Police Department who will hopefully carry on that legacy.
Det. Jason Weiland, who was one four people killed that March day, was shot as he was establishing a perimeter around the building where the suspect wanted for shooting and killing three people at two locations was barricaded.
The suspect was shot by other law enforcement officers and died several days later.
The new police dog is named Jason in honor of Weiland and is the first dog donated to a Wisconsin law enforcement agency by Crossroads K-9 Rescue, a Kronenwetter dog rescue organization through its K-9s for Cops program. The goal of the program is to donate one dog a year to a law enforcement agency, according to Sean Dumais, director of training for Crossroads K-9 Rescue.
Dumais, who along with Heather Zynda, his partner in Crossroads, were friends with Weiland, said they wanted to create a lasting memorial to the officer.
"How to honor Jason's memory, and to ensure that no one ever forgets him and what he stood for was a question that haunted Heather and I for some time after the event happened," Dumais said. "There have been some memorials put up in the community, there's been some events for Jason, but memorials fade, events go away, people forget what the original intent of the event was, and we didn't want that to happen."
He said one evening while viewing YouTube videos searching for information on a dog collar he was interested in buying, he found himself watching videos of police dogs in action apprehending suspects.
"During a video I was watching there was a K-9 handler assessing his partner that had passed away. And some of the things he said about his K-9 partner was that he was always excited about doing his job, he was always happy to go to work, he never called in sick no matter how bad he felt," Dumais said. "And above all, he absolutely loved his handler help his community. Hearing the description of this dog triggered all the memories of the first day I ever met Jason."
He noted that Weiland had a Mohawk haircut when they first met, because he was working an undercover case. The son of L.A.P.D. officers, Dumais said Weiland was excited about a drug bust they made that day where a pound of drugs were seized.
"I chuckled kind of internally and I sort of poked at him, and I said, 'you know, in Los Angeles when I was a kid, the kid next to me had five pounds in his backpack," Dumais said. "So what's that one pound?" Jason didn't care, Jason could have taken one ounce off the streets, he could have taken a million pounds off the street, he would have been just as happy. Jason could have saved somebody's life, he could have just made somebody smile, his day would have been just as bright. He was always happy about doing his job, he was always excited about doing his job. He had a passion that truly showed in what he did in serving his community."
Dumais said the passion and joy Weiland had for his job was reflected in the videos of the K-9s he watched.
"I came up with the idea that the best way to honor Jason's memory is to help his brothers and sisters in blue and give them a dog; a tool that's going to help them that is going to have the same passion and same desire that he had," Dumais said.
He had to work through several obstacles to make his idea to reality, the first being that it takes over a year to train a dog for K-9 duty, and they currently didn't have a lead on one. He found that Top Tier K-9, a kennel in Florida, had some dogs that were at the perfect age to begin training.
The next step was to fundraise to afford to buy the dog and pay for its training. From there the group had to find a law enforcement agency that would be willing to accept the dog, which would include being able to afford the costs for a specialized dedicated police vehicle, medical care and food for the animal along with an officer dedicated to having the dog 24/7.
Dumais told those in attendance Wednesday night that search proved more difficult then he had expected.
"I figured there would be every department in Wisconsin knocking on our door saying they want the dog, that's a great idea," he said. "Many of the departments that we had sent applications to said they would love the donation, but we don't have the money or we don't have the personnel or it's something that our department is not ready to delve into at the moment."
Dumais said four departments, including Rhinelander, expressed an interest in accepting the dog. RPD was chosen because of something chief Lloyd Gauthier said during the interview.
"Most of the departments, when I said what would a dog mean to you, they said we're going to get drugs, we're going to get bad guys, the typical things you would expect to hear," Dumais said. "Chief Lloyd didn't say that at all, Chief Lloyd said the city of Rhinelander has a lot of children who are growing up without their parents because their parents have fallen into the trap of drug addiction or other things. And a dog, to him, meant they could have some real intervention and possibly keep the parents from going to jail or killing themselves so these children can grow up with their parents again."
Dumais said that was the spirit that Weiland would have had.
After it was announced that Rhinelander would receive the first dog under the program, the next step was meeting the officer who would be its handler, Officer Mark Raddatz.
Jason and Raddatz will work the night shift while Officer Chad Brown and the department's other K-9 officer, Odin, will patrol the day shift.
Both dogs are dual certified, which means not only are they trained to aid in apprehension, tracking and conducting building searches, they are also certified in narcotics detection.
When the department was preparing to add Odin to the force, Raddatz and Brown both applied to be the dog's handler, but due to unforeseen circumstances Raddatz had to withdraw his application, despite his strong desire to be a handler.
Dumais said when the selection committee first met Raddatz, he seemed lost in thought and didn't seem excited about the prospect.
"We couldn't have been more wrong. After knowing Mark for a year-and-a-quarter now, I don't think they could have picked a better handler," Dumais said. "Mark's passion for his community and his job shows every day. His commitment to working with Jason and doing the right thing for his community shines through every single minute of every day I've seen or talked to him.
"What we thought was non-emotion was actually Mark being 12 steps ahead of us and thinking about what collar he wanted and what dog food he wanted and several other things we weren't even ready to start thinking about," Dumais added.
After undergoing training in Florida, Raddatz brought his new partner back to Rhinelander in June.
"He's been living with Officer Raddatz, bonding and getting ready to hit the streets ever since then," Dumais said, adding it wasn't until the dog passed his certifications that he could do he was trained to do.
Besides having the dog named after Weiland, the only other requirement in accepting the dog was that he have the same badge number as the fallen detective, 1274. Dumais said Gauthier at first said RPD's numbering system on their badges was different from Everest Metro, but the chief made a command decision and a custom badge was struck for Jason, which was already on his collar Wednesday night.
"Remember, when you see him out there, remember Jason's (Weiland) legacy, this is what it is all about," Dumais said in closing.
Kara Weiland thanked Dumais for starting the program, and thanked Gauthier and the RPD for accepting Jason into their ranks. She agreed that K-9 Jason has the same passion for police work as her husband.
"It is very special for me and the girls to have this outlet in this dog and hopefully the other dogs (that will follow) that will hopefully carry on Jason's passion for police work," she said.
After the Weiland family symbolically handed off Jason's lead to Raddatz, he said while he had been able to serve in many specialty roles in law enforcement during his 11-plus year career, the one he wanted most to perform was that of K-9 handler. With being assigned Jason, that goal had finally became a reality. He was also happy that the partnership between the two will help carry on Det. Weiland's "passion and mission."
"The Rhinelander (Police Department) K-9 program is supported by the community. Without the community support, this wouldn't be possible," Raddatz said.
Gauthier said the great thing about working for the RPD, from his position as chief to the newest officer, is working with and protecting the community.
He said when he, Raddatz and Dumais went to Florida to pick out the dog that would become Jason, "his (Raddatz) love and commitment to Jason has shown an amazing amount of dedication."
He said for a small town police department to have two K-9s, one on the night shift and one on days, "is pretty unique."
"We're very excited about the opportunity, but it's hard for us to not think about the other side of that coin, and why we're here tonight," Gauthier said. "We will do our best to carry on Jason's legacy."
Besides direct donations, small stuffed animal versions of the dogs are sold to help raise funds for the RPD K-9 program. Gauthier said a version of Jason will be available some time in early 2020.
Dumais said a second dog will be awarded by the K-9s for Cops program early in 2020. It, too, will be named Jason.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernews online.com.
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