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Lee County Sheriff's Office Shows Off Newest Officer

Jason Parrott
Gunner protecting Dep. Uriah Wheatley (R) from Dep. Jordan Maag, who was coming at Wheatley with a weapon.

Lee County Sheriff Deputy Uriah Wheatley described his new partner, Gunner, as "spunky" on the job and "chill" after hours. Gunner is a black German Shepard, and the two put on a display of their abilities following the recent Lee County Board meeting at the county jail.

Sheriff Stacy Weber urged spectators to remain on the sidewalk while Wheatley and Gunner walked on the lawn behind the jail. Prior to their arrival, Chief Deputy Will Conlee hid an ink pen in a patch of tall grass.

Wheatley and Gunner got to within about 20 feet of the pen when Wheatley let go of Gunner’s leash. Gunner then started sniffing the ground and less than a minute later, he was sitting next to the pen.

Credit Jason Parrott / TSPR
Gunner sits in front of a car, letting Dep. Uriah Wheatley know there are drugs in the car during a public demonstration.

From there, Wheatley grabbed Gunner’s leash and led him to a pair of parked cars in the lawn. They circled the cars until Gunner stopped next to the driver’s side door of one of them.  Wheatley reached inside, pulled out a small container of marijuana, and held it up for the crowd to see.

The third display involved Wheatley, Gunner, and Jordan Maag, who roughly an hour earlier was sworn in as a member of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. Maag wore a large protective glove and threatened Wheatley with a weapon.

Wheatley warned Maag to drop the weapon or he would release Gunner. Maag refused, Wheatley dropped the leash, and Gunner sunk his teeth into the glove. Gunner eventually pulled it off and ran around with it for a bit before returning to Wheatley.

Sheriff Stacy Weber said that is Gunner’s primary job: protecting Wheatley.

“You have to have permission from [Wheatley] before you come near him when the dog is around,” said Weber. “You will see that he is going to be as protective as the bullet proof vest he wears.”

Weber said Gunner will also be involved in various searches: for people, for drugs, etc. He said he’s already proved his worth, discovering drugs and other contraband during a recent search.

For Wheatley, working as a K-9 handler has been a goal of his for years.

“Well, as I grew up, I always had dogs, loved working with them,” said Wheatley. “Growing up watching COPS, you get to see a dog out there, always thought that was fun. When Sheriff Weber took over the office, he said he was going to make it happen and it was my goal.”

Gunner is Wheatley’s second partner this year. Alex, another German Shepard, trained with Wheatley, but it was decided he would not work as a K-9 officer because he was timid when people approached.

Wheatley said Gunner, who lives with Wheatley, is just like any other dog when he gets home. He wants to play, run, and chill, adding that when it’s time to work, Gunner is all business.

Weber used the public display to announce that a second dog has been purchased for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. It will work with Deputy Dakota Foley, who works nights. Weber said that will give the department access to a trained dog day or night.

Weber stressed that tax dollars are not paying for the dogs or their food, equipment, and safety gear. He said the money is coming through private donations and fundraising spurred by a local committee formed to help create a K-9 unit.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.