When a longtime member of a police department dies, other officers mourn. The York County Sheriff’s Office lost one Monday, after one of their own died. Plenty of tough cops were close to tears.
The deceased never wore a uniform, but did wear a badge around his neck.
Justice, a longtime K-9 dog who worked with Sgt. Randy Gibson for a decade, died Monday a year after he retired from sniffing for drugs. Justice was at least 12 years old, or in dog years, in his 90s.
“We cried and we cried. We lost one of our family,” said Gibson, now a patrol sergeant and kept Justice at his home. “What a good-natured dog. He was a people person. I mean a people dog.”
Justice was saved from potentially being put to sleep more than a decade ago when K-9 unit supervisor Sgt. Randy Clinton and fellow K-9 officer Chris Kinsey found him in a North Carolina shelter among several dogs seized from an illegal puppy mill. A tennis ball was thrown, and Justice ran to it. A star was born.
“We trained Justice and we trained Randy, and they became a team that really made a difference,” Clinton said.
Justice, a black lab mix, specialized in sniffing out drugs and several times found big seizures, including one load of 35 kilos of cocaine. Justice was even exonerated by the S.C. Supreme Court when a convicted drug dealer claimed Justice’s failure to find drugs after a traffic stop during the raining meant the defendant never should have been arrested.
“Justice might be the only dog in sheriff’s office history to make case law,” Gibson said.
Justice was nicknamed “Kilo” after that.
Justice’s death has prompted mourning on Facebook and other social media. York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said Justice was important for protecting the public from narcotics.
“Justice and Sgt. Gibson worked many years in tandem to help keep drugs off our streets,” Tolson said. “Justice was a tremendous asset to law enforcement in York County and a trusted friend to Sgt. Gibson. He will be missed.”
Justice also was often taken to schools and other places to show the public how the sheriff’s office helps people. It was out in the public that Justice became so beloved that he eventually was named the official sheriff’s office mascot. The badge around Justice’s neck showed he served and protected, and played fetch.
“Kids especially just loved Justice,” Gibson said.
Gibson and his wife, Brandy, cut short a trip this week when Justice became so ill he needed special veterinary efforts to try to save him. The family spent more than $2,000 for veterinary, and finally, end-of-life care to end Justice’s suffering.
Brandy Gibson created a Go Fund Me site in the waning days of Justice’s life to help with the expenses the family never thought twice about incurring.
“We loved Justice,” Brandy Gibson said.
Randy Gibson has plenty of terrific human people working with him now. Yet he will never forget one four-legged cop who always had his back.
“What a great partner Justice was,” Gibson said. “One thing for sure, you could count on Justice.”
Want to help?
Visit the Go Fund Me page at gofundme.com/justices-care.