A Lawton police officer who died in the line of duty is finally getting due honors and recognition for his life given in service.
Lawton Police Department K-9 Officer Wessel will be added to the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial on Friday as part of National Police Week. He will be added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial next May.
Wessel was purchased by the Lawton Police Department as a 2-year-old Dutch Shepherd who had been trained by Justin Hutchins who owns and operates a tactical canine training facility in Muskogee. He was commissioned as an officer and paired up with handler Sgt. Michael Porter on May 6, 2011, and the duo were assigned to the Special Operations Unit in 2012.
It was during a traffic stop at Southwest 5th Street and Summit Avenue on Dec. 10, 2013, where Wessel became involved in the events that would take his life less than a month later, according to K-9 Lt. Brian Shotts.
Working with Sgt. Porter, Wessel alerted to drugs in the vehicle. As a reward, he was given his tennis ball. Shotts said that K-9 officers are given their favorite toy as a reward for a job well done.
“As Wessel bit into the ball, the ball ruptured, and Wessel ingested a large portion of it,” he said. “Within a short time, the ball was lodged in his intestinal track, thus causing Wessel to sustain a duty related injury which required emergency surgery on Dec. 12.”
Wessel underwent a follow-up surgery 16 days later but due to multiple complications he succumbed to his injury and died on Jan. 2, 2014.
Although the trusty K-9 officer died, he left this earth taking a criminal off the streets. Shotts said the driver was arrested after 13 pounds of marijuana and $10,000 in cash were recovered from the vehicle.
Wessel’s honors are long overdue, according to Porter. Beginning his career with the Lawton Police Department in 2003, he said being a dog handler has been his favorite part of his career. It was a “dream come true” for having a lifetime love of animals, he said.
“Wessel proved to be a highly dependable, loyal, and dedicated partner,” he said.
Porter called the loss of Wessel “devastating.” Being partnered with a K-9 officer means living around each other 24/7. Before his death, Wessel was looking to spend his life with his partner as a part of the family following his hoped-for retirement.
Soon after Wessel’s death, Porter was partnered with K-9 Officer Timmy. They would remain a team until Timmy’s 2017 medical retirement.
As of now, there are no plans for a local memorial for fallen officer Wessel.