ANAHEIM (CBSLA.com) — An Anaheim police officer is speaking out for the first time since a shootout nearly claimed the life of his K-9 partner, Bruno.
Four Anaheim SWAT officers were involved in a shootout on Thursday, March 20, along with K-9 handling officer R.J. Young and his German Shepherd service dog.
The shooting began after Bruno was able to locate the gunman — an accomplishment that officers agree saved their lives.
“There is no doubt in my mind that if Bruno weren’t there, there’s not a doubt in my mind that someone would have gotten hurt,” Young said.
Bruno was critically wounded in the firefight, taking a bullet to the jaw, which exited his mouth and lodged in his chest. The bullet settled less than an inch from his heart.
“The image that I saw, I will never get out of my head. It was horrific,” Young explained. “I didn’t know, at the moment, I didn’t know if he had been shot, if he had been stabbed, I wasn’t sure what had happened. But, it looked like half of his face was gone, and to see that in your partner that you’ve always seen, it decimated me.”
Following the fight’s conclusion, Young put Bruno in the car and drove quickly to the nearest animal hospital. Fellow officers blocked off intersections for Young, who was in contact with dispatchers, who in turn contacted the veterinarian.
At the Yorba Regional Animal Hospital, Bruno underwent emergency surgery, losing half his lung in the process.
News of Bruno’s shooting spread throughout the community, and just about the time people showed their support for the dog through signs and banners, Bruno began his recovery.
The officers, meanwhile, continue to be grateful for Bruno’s heroics that day, as do their families.
“As devastated and heartbroken as I am over Bruno, my husband came home,” Young’s wife Rachel said. “And there were three other guys there with him, and it could have been one of those, and I spoke to another wife, and she said that their family is just eternally grateful for Bruno, because he saved her husband as well.”
Part of the bullet still remains lodged inside Bruno, and his police career will be retired following his recovery. Officer Young reports he plans to keep Bruno with he and his family at their home.