MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami-Dade Police Department has welcomed the newest member of its K9 unit on Tuesday afternoon who comes to the department on the heels of a tragedy.
On September 18, 2013, Maritza Medina was killed when a murder suspect crashed into her car in West Broward.
Antonio Feliu, who led police on a high speed chase after he killed his estranged girlfriend and her daughter in South Miami Heights, slammed into Medina’s car at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Griffin Road. During a standoff with police, Feliu took his own life.
As Medina’s husband, Diego, began to cope with the tragic loss of his wife Maritza, he remembered a conversation they had discussing the possibility of donating Bear, their young German Shepherd dog, to a law enforcement agency.
The dog was not just a pet, he was trained to guard the house, and when Maritza died, he was moping around looking for her and sad for weeks.
That’s when Mr. Medina decided to meet with the MDPD K-9 Unit to coordinate the donation.
“Diego couldn’t handle the stress,” said Lt. Jeff Schmidinger, who oversees the K-9 UNIT.
He told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “He knew Bear would make a good police dog.”
“If anything good can come out is this tragedy, it is Bear. I’ve kept his original name, what Maritza named him and like I told Diego, it’s like having a guardian angel with me, while he is on the streets protecting the citizens of Dade County and myself. That’s a very unique situation that she (Maritza) was killed by a murderer and now he’ll be out on the street looking for criminals.”
Bear underwent several evaluations and assessments to determine if he was fit for duty.
Bear was trained to become an apprehension K-9 and, on January 28, 2014, he successfully completed the K-9 Police Certification Course and was certified by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Bear has been assigned to Schmidinger as his MDPD handler..
“This dog is very unique,” said Schmidinger. “I’ve been in charge of the K-9 unit for 8 years. This is the first dog we’ve accepted as a patrol dog. That’s because he has good qualities. He is trained in personal protection and he just turned three.”
Click video below to see Bear in action during his training.
Schmidinger said Bear still has more training as part of a 150-hour course. He said Bear should be on patrol sometime in April.
The MDPD officially welcomed Bear to the unit Tuesday afternoon at Miami-Dade Police Headquarters and wrote in a statement, “The MDPD thanks the Medina family as Bear proudly continues to honor Mrs. Medina’s memory while working as a part of our police family.”