Deputy Josh Chandler with K9 Zinc pictured at Tuesday’s press conference with Deputy Robert Lenzo, holding Aedrick Hughes, 3, who was rescused Monday by the SRSO K9 unit. Hughes was gifted with an over-sized teddy bear from Sheriff Bob Johnson.
Last year two Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office deputies donated two blood hounds for the agency, and on Monday those K9s and their handlers rescued an autistic 3-year-old boy who was lost in the woods near his Pace home.
SRSO Colonel Randy Tifft and recently retired Captain Jimmy Cotton purchased the blood hounds using their own money.
“We wanted to make sure we had every resource available here at the sheriff’s office to track not only criminals but also we’ve gotten calls for elderly missing people with dementia,” Tifft said. “Our goal was to make sure we had the resources, and we had it that day.”
Tifft, who oversees detention at Santa Rosa County Jail, has been working with K9s for 25 years.
“I know what (blood hounds) are capable of, and I know what they bring to the table,” he said.
Following Monday’s rescue, Tifft said he is proud of the dogs, Zinc and Copper, who are just over one year old. But he said he’s especially proud of their trainers, Deputy Robert Lenzo and Deputy Josh Chandler.
Tifft says Zinc and Copper are “way ahead” of where most K9s are at their age, and he attributes it to the trainers. “They have a true passion for it, and I’m glad to see that they were successful. They would have never left that day if they hadn’t found him,” said Tifft.
Per SRSO, since the blood hounds were brought on board, they have been used to locate nine individuals, including missing senior citizens, criminals on the run and missing children.
Audra Hughes and her three-year-old son, Aedrick, who was discovered by K9 Copper around 200 yards into thick and muddy woods near their home, joined Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson at the September 14 press conference, expressing relief and appreciation toward the agency.
Hughes said her mom was watching the child, who opened a locked door while his grandmother was in the bathroom.
Cops say that after the immediate search of the area was unsuccessful, the sheriff’s blood hounds arrived on scene to assist.
It took less than a half hour for the K9 unit to locate the child.
Lenzo, Chandler and K9s Copper and Zinc will be recognized by the Santa Rosa County County Commission at the board’s September 23 meeting.