The call came in to the York County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit Thursday afternoon and the deputies understood.
Charlotte Mecklenburg police needed the best men, and the best dog, to help search for a missing Uber driver. They were sent to a field off Mount Gallant Road in Rock Hill.
There were woods, open fields, mud after days of rain and wind.
Deputies Tim Carroll, with eight years as a dog handler, Chris Kinsey, with 13 years of similar experience, and Sgt. Randy Clinton, the K-9 unit supervisor who has handled dogs for three decades, rushed to the scene.
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They took Gabby, Clinton’s tracking dog – a bloodhound.
In 2016, the K-9 unit went on 314 calls. This year, they have gone on more than 140.
It’s not unusual for York County dog handlers to help Charlotte police. This time the site was in South Carolina. Charlotte police were the lead.
Clinton had seen television coverage in previous days of missing Marlo Johnis Medina-Chevez. He saw the distraught family, the crying daughter, of the hard-working Honduran immigrant who had a second job driving Uber to make extra money. That’s how he disappeared. Clinton knew two suspects in the stolen vehicle had been caught in Maryland. He saw how the family prayed Medina-Chevez was still alive.
“It was pitiful and sad, her having to cry over her missing daddy,” Clinton said.
Clinton has been a law enforcement officer since Ronald Reagan was president. He still has the toothbrush mustache that went out of style when Magnum P.I. went off the air. When he started in the K-9 unit, he was the K-9 unit, with one dog.
At the search site in Rock Hill on Thursday, it was all business. Gabby went out first because, Clinton said, “dogs can smell better than the police.” Especially in the wind.
The officers did not talk Friday, the day after the search, about the details of what they did, or how they did it. But they did say after about 250 yards of moving through the fields, Gabby found something. The officers backed out and forensic teams were sent in, Clinton said. And before long it was determined by Charlotte police that a body, believed to be Medina-Chevez, had been found.
Clinton and Carroll and Kinsey all said the same thing to the dog: “Good girl.”
They watched as other squads moved in to investigate.
York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson praised the K-9 unit for its professionalism and work to help Charlotte. Carroll and Kinsey accepted no additional praise.
“The job is the reward, helping people,” Carroll said.
Clinton said Carroll, Kinsey and himself acted as a team to help that crying daughter.
“We go out there and we get the job done as team,” Clinton said. “We represent the York County Sheriff’s Office, and we do it the best we can every time. Maybe we gave some closure to that family.”
Other law enforcement officers handled the evidence and the investigation, and will handle the arrests. Police have issued warrants charging two men with murder in the kidnapping and death of Medina-Chevez.
On Thursday, the York County officers and Gabby headed back to the kennel behind the sheriff’s office. Kinsey fed his dog, Otter. Carroll fed his dogs, Scania and Hattie. Clinton fed Gabby.
Then they cleaned the dogs and cleaned the pens, because that, too, is part of the job.
Late Thursday, Clinton got ready to go home. He thought of a family in Charlotte who had lost a loved one. Carroll, Kinsey, Clinton and Gabby had helped. They found what nobody wanted to find.
Clinton whispered to Gabby, petted her face. “Good girl,” he whispered.