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WATCH NOW: K9 Riggs gets a hero's welcome as he is released from veterinary hospital

BUFFALO GROVE, Ill. — Kenosha County Sheriff’s Deputy Terry Tifft and his K9 Riggs received a hero’s welcome when the police dog was released from a veterinary hospital in Illinois Sunday.

Dozens of canine officers and their police dogs, along with Kenosha deputies, local first responders and family members turned out to honor the dog Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth called a hero for stopping an armed homicide suspect who was running toward Highway 50 Thursday in Bristol.

The man — 33-year-old Allen Brown of Countryside, Ill. — shot Riggs in the head after the dog tackled Brown to the ground as he fled. Brown was then shot and wounded by deputies.

“The dog did his job, he saved my life and those of my fellow officers,” Tifft said. The man the dog tackled is suspected of killing two people earlier that day.

Tifft was emotional when Riggs was walked out of the Veterinary Specialty Center in Buffalo Grove, Ill. Sunday, kneeling and hugging the 8-year-old German Shepherd who has been his partner since 2014.

“It’s very emotional, very emotional, I couldn’t be happier right now,” Tifft said before loading Riggs into his squad car to bring him back to Kenosha.

He was going to be followed on his trip by a procession of law enforcement vehicles, the deputy and his dog then honored again at a ceremony in a park before heading home. “I can’t believe how good he looks ... I thought it was bad, I thought I was going to lose him.”

Chicago Police had asked sheriff’s deputies to go to the Benson Corners Shell Station, 20000 75th St. in Bristol Thursday morning to search for a man suspected of killing two people and stealing one of the victim’s vehicles during a violent spree earlier the same day, according to Chicago media reports.

Three deputies, including Tifft, arrived at the station and the vehicle that had been stolen during the Chicago carjacking was in the station lot. They ordered Brown out of the vehicle. But, according to Beth, Brown got out of the car and began running toward Highway 50. Tifft released Riggs, who brought Brown to the ground just before he ran onto the road. Brown then shot the dog.

‘Very lucky dog’

On Sunday, the healing bullet wound was visible in the center of Riggs’ forehead just above his eyes.

“He is a very, very lucky dog,” said veterinarian Jennifer Herring. She said the bullet entered Riggs forehead then skirted through the muscle along his skull, exiting through the back of his head near the base of his skull. She said the path of the bullet was visible through the muscle, and there was some bruising to his brain, but said Harris escaped serious injury and should recover well.

“He’s a very strong dog,” Herring said.

Kenosha County Sheriff’s Deputy Terry Tifft and his K9 Riggs received a hero’s welcome when the police dog was released from a veterinary hospital in Illinois Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.

Riggs was first treated by staff of Harris Veterinary Hospital in Paddock Lake, with staff riding in the Salem Lakes Fire Department ambulance that brought him to the hospital in Buffalo Grove. Paramedics Kyle Tobias and Eric Epstein, who were in the ambulance that transported the dog, came to see his release from the hospital.

Epstein said Riggs was unusually calm in the ambulance despite his injury. “I was just trying to keep him calm,” Epstein said, as a veterinary technician from Harris handled his care. “He was very relaxed, and kind of acting like a regular dog (in the ambulance). I was petting him and he was leaning up against me.”

Shooter was suspect in two killings

Brown was shot in the leg and abdomen. He had surgery at a local hospital and is expected to survive. He is likely to face felony charges in Kenosha for the shooting.

According to CBS Chicago, Brown is suspected of shooting and killing a 25-year-old man during an argument at a bus stop in Chicago at about 1 a.m. Thursday. He then ran from that shooting and carjacked a 41-year-old man, shooting that man in the chest and stealing his vehicle. The second victim died at an area hospital. Brown has two previous felony convictions, the most recent in 2009 for aggravated battery to a police officer.

On Sunday, many of the canine officers and police dogs that turned out to welcome Riggs as he left the hospital also train at Tops Kennel in Grayslake, Ill. The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department K9 officers and their dogs regularly train at the kennel, which also provides the department their dogs.

Trainer Alex Rothacker was also at the veterinary hospital to greet Riggs and Tifft.

“The dog did what he was supposed to do, he did his job, which is to protect his family — and for these dogs, all people are their family,” Rothacker said. “Emotionally, he is fine. They told me that when he got shot he never let go, which is remarkable … I pray that the sheriff lets him go back to work.”

For now, though, Tifft said he was anxious to get Riggs home. “We just want to go home and get some rest,” he said.

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