Mesa Police K-9 Leon has been the only Mesa police service dog to be killed in the line of duty. Leon, a Belgian Malinois, originally from the Netherlands, was acquired by the K-9 Unit in January 2006. Officer John Lafontaine was his handler.
K-9 Leon made national headlines in August 2006 after helping police detain a 350-pound man in a dramatic standoff on the U.S. 60. The man had been stopped in another location for expired tags and fearing arrest for outstanding felony warrants, sped off before officers could arrest him. There was a female passenger and 3-month old baby in the vehicle with him. A helicopter tracked the vehicle, which eventually stopped on the freeway, where the man pushed the female passenger from the vehicle. He continued traveling a short distance where he wrecked and disabled his vehicle. The man was given numerous chances to surrender. Realizing the infant still in the vehicle could be in distress because of the heat (110 degrees outside), K-9 Leon was deployed. K-9 Leon grabbed the suspect's left arm and held on while the suspect lifted Leon off the ground and swung him around in the air from side to side. While K-9 Leon was attempting to bring the suspect down, officers rescued the infant who was face down and in respiratory distress. K-9 Leon never released his hold on the suspect until his handler gave the release command. The infant was rushed to the hospital and made a full recovery. The suspect was transported to the hospital for his injuries and booked at the Maricopa County Jail on multiple charges. The event was captured by TV news helicopters as it unfolded on live television. K-9 Leon and Officer John Lafontaine were later awarded the National Deployment of the Year award by the National Police Canine Association, for this freeway hostage incident.
On the evening of March 20, 2007, Officer John Lafontaine detained a suspicious person on a bicycle in a parking lot at Lindsay Road and Main Street. Upon learning that the 19-year-old detained was wanted on warrants for burglay and a probabtion violation, Officer Lafontaine attempted to take the suspect into custody with the suspect resisting arrest. The suspect threw his bicycle at Officer Lafontaine and ran across the parking lot towards Main Street. Officer Lafontaine deployed K-9 Leon to apprehend the suspect, who ran across Main Street. K-9 Leon continued pursuit and as he ran across Main Street, he was struck by a car. He was rushed to the veterinarian hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The suspect was later apprehended by Mesa Police officers, booked on the outstanding warrants and suspicion of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and false reporting.
K-9 Leon is remembered for his courage, agility and playful spirit. He is missed by his handler and his family, the K-9 Unit and members of the Mesa Police Department.
Officer John Lafontaine and K-9 Leon.