Husband comes to wife's rescue during K9 attack

By: Sara Shookman Email
By: Sara Shookman Email

CARYVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A Knoxville police dog is dead after he attacked a neighbor outside his handler's home.

Police say Elko, a five-year-old Belgian Malinois, broke out of his kennel during a thunderstorm Thursday and bit a woman in the arm.

Animal control officers say they did what was necessary. Both the death of the dog and injury of his victim have the Paradise Cove neighborhood upset.

Gora Watts was treated and released. Her husband, Fred, wouldn't go on camera but told Volunteer TV the attack has left both he and his wife scarred.

A Campbell County Sheriff's Office reports shows Elko attacked Gora Watts as she stepped out of the car in the garage of her home on Bluff Trace Road.

Her husband says he beat the dog off his wife and called 9-1-1.

KPD says the dog got of his pen at his handler, Officer Jonathan Chadwell's home, in Caryville.

Neighbor James Stephens was outside mowing when the storm came up, and officers arrived asking about a black dog on the loose.

"He said one had bit the neighbor," said Stephens. "I said I know there's a police dog because the guy up the street owns one. He's a K9 officer from Knoxville."

A KPD spokesperson says the department allows a small number of specialty unit officers to take their vehicles home, and K9 officers often keep their animal partner at home for round-the-clock care.

Animal Control of Campbell County says they had no idea Elko was a police dog, or that one even lived in the area. They say the officer responded as he would to any aggressive dog.

"That's what he's trained to do. And he was protecting himself," said Supervisor Betty Crumley. "That dog was very strong."

Crumley says judge-deemed dangerous dogs must register with the county, and she'd like to see the same for police dogs.

"We might have been able to contact the owner, the handler, and perhaps prevented what had to happen," she said. "But we're here to protect the citizens of the country from animals and that's exactly what we were doing."

Stephens says he's seen the dog dozens of times and never thought of Elko as a danger.

"I think it might have been a freak of nature. All animals are afraid of lightning and stuff. It might be the lightning cause it was bad," he said.

Now he just hopes Watts recovers. "I'm just worried about her and how she is," he said.

Gora's family tells me she's in pain from bruises and a puncture wound, and certainly has a fear of dogs.

KPD is still investigating the incident, and Officer Chadwell is still on regular duty.

Elko cost about $4,500 and he had been with the department since 2003. The department has 12 K9 officer teams after this loss.

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