As the mournful tones of bagpipes sounded at Century II, they were joined by a mix of barks and yips.
For the first time in the city’s history, Wichita on Friday bade farewell to a police dog killed in the line of duty.
“Quite honestly, I owe my life to him,” Officer Daniel Gumm said of his partner, Rooster, a Belgian Malinois who had been on duty for nearly five years.
Rooster was shot to death on the night of March 18 as he attempted to apprehend an armed man at a south Wichita mobile home park. Police have said Kevin C. Perry, 25, fired a shot at Rooster, and officers — believing Perry was shooting at them — fired at Perry and killed him.
Rooster died almost immediately after being shot, Gumm said Friday.
About 250 people gathered at Exhibition Hall in Century II for the memorial service, as well as K-9 dogs from law enforcement agencies across the state. The service was punctuated by the sound of dogs yelping, barking and sometimes even growling at each other.
People in the crowd wiped tears from their eyes and faces as a video tribute to Rooster played to the haunting lyrics from the heavy metal band Disturbed’s version of “The Sound of Silence.”
“This is a very sad and tragic event,” Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said. “It has been heartwarming to see the local and national support in the loss of Rooster.”
Cards, flowers, plaques and artwork have come flowing in for Rooster’s family and the Wichita Police Department — some even from overseas.
Police dogs are not only a member of the Police Department, Ramsay said, they are a member of their handler’s family. He personally expressed his condolences to Gumm’s wife and children.
“We realize this is an equally tough time for them as we mourn the loss of Rooster,” Ramsay said.
Police chaplain Dave Henion called dogs a gift from God.
“God has blessed us with dogs … and especially Rooster,” Henion said.
We live in a fallen world, Henion said, filled with people who sometimes do bad things.
“I am grateful that we have people and dogs that go into the fire and try to prevent people from getting hurt,” Henion said.
Gumm and Rooster had joined other officers responding to the Lamplighter Mobile Home Park, 2320 E. MacArthur, after a woman called 911, saying Perry had pointed a gun at her, threatened to kill her and had held her hostage. He had also threatened suicide, police have said.
The woman met officers outside a mobile home about 10 minutes after the calls, telling them Perry was armed. A short time later, Perry came out of the mobile home with his hands up and walked toward the officers before dropping his hands and turning around to go back inside.
It was then that Rooster’s handler released him with commands to stop Perry.
“We don’t like subjects to go back into the house … and potentially have access to weapons,” Ramsay said a couple of days after the incident.
Immediately after Perry turned to leave, one of the officers noticed a gun tucked into the back of Perry’s waistband and shouted a warning so others were aware of the weapon.
By then, Rooster had grabbed Perry’s leg, preventing him from retreating further. Perry turned back toward the officers and reached for his gun, prompting police to fire at him at about the same time Perry is thought to have discharged his weapon, police have said.
One police officer, an 11-year veteran of the department, shot four rounds after seeing Perry reach for the weapon. The second officer, a two-year veteran, shot three times after seeing a muzzle flash from Perry’s handgun, police have said.
Based on a review of video footage captured during Saturday’s events and evidence collected, it appears that Perry’s bullet hit Rooster, Ramsay has said.
At Friday’s ceremony, Henion spoke of Rooster’s noble act of going in to apprehend the armed man.
“What would have happened if Rooster wasn’t there that night?” Henion asked. “I am grateful that Rooster was able to go in there and take the hit for our guys. He should be honored.”
Gumm called the support for him and his family in the wake of Rooster’s death “overwhelming.”
After 10 weeks of training, they hit the streets as a team in August 2012, Gumm said. After a period of feeling each other out, he said, they gelled as a team within the past year.
They trained together for more than 3,000 hours and seized 256 pounds of marijuana, 10 pounds of meth and $31,000 in cash. Rooster was responsible for at least 35 apprehensions and was involved in more than 25 SWAT deployments.
Gumm said Rooster knew only two speeds: full stop and full throttle. There was no in between
“It’s pretty amazing what we can teach them to do and what they’re willing to do,” he said, and they do it “with more conviction than any person ever could.”
Rooster wasn’t a police officer, Gumm said, “but at the same time, he was my partner — every day.”
And it was pretty cool to have a dog as a partner.
“It’s also like having a 2-year-old as a partner — a very stinky, hyper, panting, slobbering, 80-pound 2-year-old with really bad gas,” Gumm said, drawing knowing laughter from the crowd.
Gumm said he hasn’t taken a drink in years without having some hairy slobber along with it.
“Even with all that, I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said.
Rooster was a powerful dog with a powerful bite, as numerous felons — and one unfortunate Kansas Highway Patrol trooper — could confirm. Rooster was at his best when they were called out with the SWAT team, Gumm said.
“It’s difficult to explain your relationship with your dog … especially in life-and-death situations,” Gumm said.
Rooster seemed to relish those calls, Gumm said.
“You’re depending on that dog,” he said. “You have a whole team of guys wanting to know, ‘Hey, what’s your dog telling you?’ He embraced that role.”
Rooster was doing what he was best at when he was killed, Gumm said.
“I can take solace in that: He died doing what he loved to do,” Gumm said.
Rooster’s body was cremated. The urn holding his ashes will be placed on display at Patrol South, the bureau where he served.
The ceremony ended with the playing of Taps, as people in the crowd struggled to hold back tears.
Judging by their whimpering, a few dogs in the audience sensed the circumstances, too.