Even legends have to retire. Including legendary K-9 law enforcement officers who survived being shot on the job.
York County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Randy Clinton is retiring after 35 years. His retirement comes a year and a half after Clinton was shot on duty while trying to find a domestic violence suspect.
On Wednesday, Clinton will walk out after more than 2,500 locates. A locate, officers say, is a K-9 team of dog and officer finding a victim or a missing child or a person gone, or finding a suspect who has hurt or maimed or killed.
More than 2,500 times over three decades, Clinton was that officer in York County who walked through mud and streams, snow and woods, until the person was found.
“I like to think I made a mark, did some good for the people in this community,” Clinton said Tuesday at the sheriff’s office as he and others wiped away tears.
Clinton’s peers say he did more than make a mark. Clinton is “a real hero and living legend” in law enforcement, said York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson. Clinton’s loyalty, deep care and love for helping people is the stuff of myth that actually is true, Tolson said.
“There is no bigger example of dedication to an agency, to a community than Randy Clinton — me included,” Tolson said. “This is a man who has more than 2,500 locates in all those decades as a dog handler. He gave everything he had to the people that he served.”
Clinton’s expertise as a dog handler and trainer included a yearly dog tracking school held in York County that has drawn dog handlers from as far as New Zealand to learn from him.
The job is also where Clinton was hurt. Clinton was one of four officers shot in January 2018 in York. Clinton was shot in the middle of the night tracking for Christian McCall with his K-9 dog, Gabby.
Clinton was the first officer wounded by shooter McCall.
Sgt. Mike Doty shot and later died.
Sgt. Buddy Brown and York Police Department Sgt. Kyle Cummings were wounded.
McCall pleaded guilty later in 2018 and is serving a life prison sentence.
Clinton was out of work for a year after being shot in the leg by McCall. After surgeries, Clinton came back to the sheriff’s office in January 2019 and worked again in the K-9 unit where he led handlers and the dog teams.
He was awarded medals of valor by York County and South Carolina. Clinton was also lauded by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for finding a murdered Uber driver in Rock Hill a 2017 homicide case.
York County Sheriff K-9 unit helped find missing Uber driver from Charlotte
The K-9 unit will have to go on. A new sergeant will have to be named to run the unit. But Tolson, the sheriff, said that no one can ever replace Randy Clinton.
“Legendary is not even enough to describe this man and his commitment to the people of York County,” Tolson said. “He knows so much. He gave so much. This is an end of en era.”