Heidi Kyser

Journalist, writer

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Best friends vs. bad guys story ends in tragic twist

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My profile, Best friends taking on the bad guys, in this month’s issue of Desert Companion begins this way: “Imagine patting your trusty canine companion on the head — and then sending him into a situation from which he may not return.” Sadly, that’s just what happened to Las Vegas Metro Police  Officer Jeff Corbett and his K9 partner, Marco, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois.

I paraphrased the passage quoted above from a moving part of my interview with the profiled officer, Duwayne Layton. I could, actually, imagine patting my little Cocker Spaniel Aja on the head and then sending her into a room where an armed person had barricaded himself and was waiting to pick off people as they entered. It made me shudder, and then tear up.

I reacted with similar empathy to the news about Marco, which I happened to get the same day I turned in the Layton profile to my editor. According to a report in the Las Vegas Review Journal, on May 14, a Metro officer shot Marco after the dog mistakenly bit the shooter’s partner. Following nine days in intensive care, having lost the use of his limbs, Marco was euthanized, the Friends of the Las Vegas Police K9s reported on their Facebook page.

Internal investigators are looking into the incident. I suppose it strained relationships inside Metro, what with the physical injury of the officer who was attacked and the grief of Corbett and the rest of the K9 unit.

Based on the time I spent with Layton, I believe the loss of a K9 dog strikes unit members with a combination of what devoted pet owners like me feel when their companion dies, and what other law enforcement officers feel when their partner dies. To their handlers, these dogs are much more than just order-following machines.

In this short video of Layton and his retired K9 partner Rico, captured at Marc Kahre Elementary School’s Kahre Honor Day on May 11, Layton’s love for his dog is apparent:

If it weren’t for the uniform, you’d think you were looking at a man and his best friend, like any other.

But it’s deeper than that. K9 dogs live with their handlers, and as Layton explained to me, for the first couple weeks of their partnership, nobody in a household can interact with the dog but his handler. It establishes what Layton described as a bond not unlike that between parent and child.

Layton’s neighbor and Kahre Elementary teacher Sharlyn Reid told me she believes the apparent harmony between man and dog is part of the reason why kids at the school love the regular visits law enforcement pays to give demonstrations and motivational talks.

“They love Officer Layton,” she said, “because they love the partnership he has with his dogs.”

Blame and responsibility notwithstanding, what happened to Marco is tragic for everyone involved. It’s a part of the job that officers like Layton accept when they sign up, but it will no doubt pluck that cord of fear in their hearts the next time they pat their partners on the head and send them into situations from which they may not return.

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National take-back day is tomorrow, April 28

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When was the last time you took inventory of the Percocet pills lingering in your medicine cabinet since the back surgery you had in the ’00s? Now, consider all the opportunities your acquaintances, neighbors, even kids have had to get their hands on them since then.

Tomorrow, take them to any Las Vegas Metro Police station, North Las Vegas police station, Henderson Police station, Boulder City police station, Paiute Tribal Police station or Nellis Air Force Base PX and turn them in, no questions asked. It’s part of the Drug Enforcement Administration‘s National Take-Back Initiative.

What’s that all about? Recall the story about prescription drug abuse I did recently for Las Vegas CityLife, the Pill Wars. In it, I mentioned the high percentage of prescription drugs that the government estimates come from friends and family, with or without their knowing it. Take-back is a way of getting those drugs outside the reach of abusers and dealers.

In fact, you can turn in your unused prescription drugs all year round at Metro stations, which are equipped with lobby drop-boxes to offer anonymity. But take-back day kind of makes it stick in your mind, like a holiday.

Don’t flush them down the toilet (the snails in Lake Mead don’t want them). Don’t follow your cousin’s cockamamie advice and bury them (the plants and water table don’t want them; plus, that doesn’t destroy them). Take them to the police tomorrow. Conscience: clear.

Car hits kids: A post-script to pedestrian safety story

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The Las Vegas Review Journal sent a news flash this morning about a car hitting two children in front of Culley Elementary School. It reminded me of the time I spent watching pedestrians flee oncoming auto traffic on the streets of Las Vegas while reporting a recent story, Walkers Beware, for City Life.

A public information officer at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department confirmed today’s accident was as the RJ described. It happened near Washington Avenue and Jones Boulevard in the northwest part of the valley, and both kids went to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The PIO had no additional information, such as specifics on injuries or whether the children were in a crosswalk. As pedestrian advocate Erin Breen noted in my story, “non-life threatening” injuries are not necessarily easy to recover from.

This incident, like so many others, underscores our community’s need to address pedestrian safety issues. People who want to get involved can check out efforts like Safe Routes to School and Look Out Kids About, or contact school administrators and public officials to see what — if anything — is being done in their area.

Little ‘hood wins journalism award

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I was happy to hear from Desert Companion Editor Andrew Kiraly this week that the magazine grabbed 13 trophies in the Nevada Press Association’s Best of Nevada Journalism 2011 awards – even happier to learn one of them was for a story I contributed, The little ‘hood that could. It took 3rd place for Best Explanatory Journalism in the magazines category. A judge commented, “This illustrates what the strength of a group can do to better a community. A very nice piece.”

Thanks to Andrew for his guidance on the story, which appears to have accomplished what we hoped (exploring the possibility of John S. Park’s success being repeated elsewhere), judging from comments readers posted online.

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