Hero Vom-Haus Kastma

posted April 15th, 2007 by
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Story by Marilyn King

The City of Broken Arrow Police Department is fortunate to have a very important member on its team:   Hero Vom-Haus Kastma, a patrol canine specializing in explosive detection.
Hero, a black, tan, and gray German Shepherd, was born on March 21, 2003, in Western Germany.   Vom-Haus translates into “from the house of,” so he’s literally Hero from the house of Kastma.    The Broken Arrow Police Department purchased him for $9,500 with funds provided from a grant under Homeland Security, and upon his arrival in May 2004, he was partnered with Officer Scott Oelke.  The two immediately enrolled in a three-month training program, hit the streets patrolling Broken Arrow in August 2004, and have been inseparable ever since.

Hero and Scott work during the day, responding to all crimes in progress to which they’re called.   They assist officers in locating suspects that are hiding from police, track missing persons, and respond to all calls involving explosives.   When Scott arrives on a call and a canine is needed, Scott puts Hero on his leash, and they get out of the car together to assess the situation   However, if Scott happens to be in an emergency situation and Hero’s in the backseat of the car, Scott can push a button on a device he wears on his gunbelt, very similar to a small garage door opener, called a “bailout remote.”  It ever so slightly pops open the patrol car’s back door. That’s Hero’s cue that his services are needed, and he’s off to work to do one of the things he does best!

During his career, Hero has apprehended many criminal suspects, the majority of which involve burglary and auto theft crimes.   He made the Broken Arrow streets a little safer one day early last February.  A business owner reported he had seen a suspicious looking man hiding in a wooded area behind his store.  Scott and Hero received a call to assist other patrol officers in locating the man.   When the suspect realized he’d been seen, he took off and jumped a fence into a residential neighborhood.  Scott took Hero to the wooded area where the suspect was last seen, and Hero’s training kicked in.  He tracked through the woods, jumped the same fence as the suspect (with Scott) and stopped at a vacant house, where the backdoor was slightly ajar.   Hero and Scott entered the house,  and Hero circled around and around in the garage, showing interest in the pull down stairs leading to the attic.  Scott pulled the stairs down and helped Hero climb up, and they found their suspect.  After he was apprehended, Hero searched the attic for anything the man could have hidden.  Hero found a shotgun shell in the insulation in the same part of the attic where the suspect was found.   The man denied having a shotgun with him, but the officers thought he had probably gotten rid of in while in pursuit.   The police later learned that the man was wanted in Tulsa County for several outstanding warrants.  It was determined that Hero most probably prevented an armed robbery that day.

Hero is one of approximately 20 canines in Oklahoma with explosive detection capabilities and holds a certification through the North American Police Work Dog Association.  He’s tested yearly, and every Tuesday evening he and Scott  train together to keep their skills sharp.   When Hero and Scott are not working, they are busy conducting canine demonstrations for schools and day care centers, and providing awareness programs for businesses concerning bomb threats and awareness for  suspicious packages.

Hero is also the only explosive detection canine on the Oklahoma Task Force 1 Search and Rescue Team.   He’s assigned to protection, and his job is to keep the emergency responders safe from explosives or other such threats that may be found at a disaster scene.    His honors also include being named Top Dog at his first canine competition, held at the Vance Air Force Base in Enid in May 2006 – he won first place in building searches and obedience and agility, and second place in area searches.   He competed against 13 other canines.

Hero and Scott have assisted numerous police agencies around the greater Tulsa metro area, such as the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the Tulsa County Sherriff’s Office, the Bixby Police Department, Federal Probation and Parole, ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives) and the OSU Police Department.

The day I met Hero, February 7th, his work record showed thus far he had been on 35 explosive-related calls, 55 canine demonstrations, 6 criminal apprehensions, 32 building searches, 13 area searches, and 7 tracks, which are searches for missing or wanted persons.  While he wasn’t exactly wary of me, he did sniff my purse and briefcase.    

In his leisure hours, Hero lives with Scott and his family.   He can certainly separate work and play and enjoys the good life playing ball with the kids and getting plenty of love and attention.   He is 85 pounds of pure muscle, but when he’s not working he’s a gentle giant who mistakes himself for a lap dog.  He also loves to have his picture taken.   In fact, his nickname around the station is “Cheese” because he’s always ready for a photo shoot.

Scott says being assigned to the Canine Unit has been the most rewarding assignment thus far in his police career.   He says he couldn’t ask for a better partner, or best friend.    You go, Hero.  We applaud you and your partner Scott.   We’re all lucky to have this special team protecting our families and our property.   

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