BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s been five months since the loss of Jango, the Bakersfield Police Department’s first and only K-9 killed in the line of duty in its 123-year history.
Jango’s handler Senior Officer Brock Mueller is set to return to work this week with a new partner and a renewed sense of purpose.
Theirs was a partnership that can be understood only by a fellow K-9 handler. Officer Brock Mueller and Jango — together four years — separated five months ago, when Jango was shot and killed trying to apprehend a suspect.
“That bond is so strong because I have to trust him to alert me to any dangers that lie ahead of us. He does a really good job at that. He was great at that, so I have to trust him with my life because everyone behind me is trusting me with their life,” Mueller explained.
While Mueller still mourns Jango, he is moving ahead with a new partner, Mando, a 19-month-old Belgian Malinois whose name also comes from the Star Wars franchise.
“Big Star Wars fan. I really like “The Mandalorian.” The Mandalorians are the bounty hunters, the guys that wear the armor. I’ve always been a big fan of them. I like their storylines and I just love Star Wars.”
Mueller and Mando have been training together for 14 weeks at the same field where Jango trained. The field has been renamed in Jango’s memory.
“He’ll be trained in the same way as Jango was,” Mueller said. “He’ll be trained in apprehension and obviously locating humans, but then also be trained in the detection of narcotics. Jango was trained in the detection of explosives and so Mando will be the narcotics side of it.”
Mueller and Mando are set to graduate this week.
Mueller talked about returning without Jango by his side.
“I’m sure there’s going to be some emotions, but I love this dog,” Mueller said. “He’s doing some great things so I know I’m just going to rewrite some stories and make some new ones. I look forward to the opportunities that I’m going to have with Mando. I’ll miss a lot about Jango, but I have some wonderful memories I’ll never let go of.”
Mueller was recently cleared to return to duty. He says he’s ready to put back on the uniform and serve our community — the same people who stood by him when he lost Jango.
“The support here from this community, it’s a very powerful feeling,” Mueller said. “It really reassures why I put the uniform on every day. It was greatly appreciated and I can’t wait to get back out there and start repaying all that love and support I received.”
While Mueller moves forward with Mando, it’s clear Jango will always have a piece of his heart.