DANVERS — “Rest easy, Falco.”
Those words of tribute were offered up by the Danvers Police Department late last week at the news that the department’s former longtime canine had died.
Falco, who had retired from active service last year, was 13, according to a short tribute to the police dog on the Danvers police Facebook page on Nov. 9.
The post didn’t say when exactly the German shepherd died. But the news generated an outpouring of condolences via social media for Falco and expressions of sympathy for his partner, K-9 Officer Justin Ellenton. The post was shared 173 times and garnered 1,100 “likes,” as of Monday evening.
Falco served the town and the department for 11 years, from 2005 to 2016.
He was lauded last week for tracking down numerous missing and wanted people over his law enforcement career, as well as recovering drugs, evidence, stolen property, hidden compartments in vehicles and thousands of dollars in drug money.
During that career, he participated in some high-stakes operations. As a member of the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council’s SWAT team and K-9 unit, he was part of the K-9 response to the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and the ensuing manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers. And later that year, Falco was instrumental in the Colleen Ritzer case.
The Danvers Police Department first acquired Falco in 2005 with approximately $9,500 from a community policing grant.
Earlier in his career, he actually went by the name of Hogan when he was handled by the department’s former K-9 officer, Kevin Wood, who later returned to regular patrol work and Ellenton became the K-9 officer.
It’s typical to rename police dogs when turned over to a new handler and re-trained. Falco went to live with Ellenton as well.
In the summer of 2010, just days after completing re-training at the Boston Police K-9 Academy with Ellenton, Falco helped track down a suspect in a smash-and-grab theft from a hobby shop on Water Street. It was Falco’s first “track” since the new partners graduated from the K-9 academy.
Falco was well-liked by kids in town. When he was injured in March 2014, students at the Thorpe School sent him cards and letters.
The life of a police dog also had its physical challenges.
In September 2014, Falco wound up biting a suspect after being punched.
It started when police responded to a fight at the EconoLodge on Endicott Street. Officers, including Ellenton and Falco, pursued and confronted the suspect, whose white SUV had come to a stop in the vicinity of Exit 52 on I-95 North.
When the suspect ignored repeated orders to put his hands on the steering wheel, Ellenton sent Falco to open the door, something the dog was trained to do. Then, Falco jumped inside and onto the suspect’s lap, and the man threw punches at the dog, only to get bit. After Falco let go, police used a stun gun to subdue the suspect.
After retirement in early 2016, Falco lived with Ellenton and Stryka, the department’s new K-9. Stryka is a Belgian Malinois, which is also being handled by Ellenton.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.