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February 6th, 2004
March 20th, 2007
Mesa Police Department

Mesa Police Officer and K-9 Handler, John Lafontaine, has been with the Mesa Police Department for approximately 13 years. He has been with the Mesa Police Department's K-9 Unit for over 6 years. Officer Lafontaine and his K-9 partner, Leon, a 3 year old Belgian Malinois originally from the Netherlands and acquired by the K-9 Unit in January of 2006 from Adlerhorst Kennels, located in Riverside, California, completed the Basic Handlers Course at the Mesa Police K-9 Unit's training facility. K-9 Leon and his handler were then certified by the National Police Canine Association and ready to patrol the streets of Mesa, in addition to assisting various units of the department such as the Patrol and SWAT divisions when called upon, as well as assisting other police departments in the area when requested.

On April 8th & 9th of 2006, Officer Lafontaine and K-9 Leon, participated in several events at the 4th Annual Desert Dog Police K-9 Trials, held at Mesa's Hohokam Stadium that year. The K-9 Team helped the K-9 Unit win 6th Place for Top Agency in the Patrol Category. Quite an accomplishment for a team who only began working the streets just a short time before the K-9 Trials. 2006 was also the first year for the "Tough Dog" competition, which was held at the conclusion of the K-9 Trials. Only the ten best hard hitting dogs were chosen by the Agitators to participate in the event, with K-9 Leon being one of the chosen ten.

In the afternoon of August 18th, 2006, Officer Lafontaine and K-9 Leon, made national headlines. Off duty at the time and resting at home, Officer Lafontaine and K-9 Leon were called upon to assist with the apprehension of a suspect who was in a standoff with Mesa Police Officers on the 60 Freeway, with a box over his hand, giving the appearance that he could possibly be holding some sort of a weapon. Officers on the scene exercised great care and restraint so as not to escalate the situation, especially since there was a 3 month old infant in the suspect's vehicle, where the interior temperature was rising due to afternoon summertime temperatures exceeding 110 degrees. The suspect, originally stopped in another location in Mesa for expired tags and fearing arrest for two outstanding felony warrants, sped off in his vehicle before the officer could take him into custody. The suspect was kept under surveillance by one of the Mesa Police Department's Helicopter Air Units, with police vehicles falling back so as not to endanger the public or the occupants of the vehicle. The suspect stopped on the 60 Freeway, pushing an adult female passenger from the vehicle and continued westbound until wrecking his vehicle and thus disabling it. The 350 pound male suspect was then given numerous chances to surrender. Having failed to do so and with the officers on the scene realizing that the infant in the vehicle could be in distress, K-9 Leon was deployed on the suspect. K-9 Leon grabbed the suspect's left arm and held on while the suspect lifted K-9 Leon up off the ground and swung him around in the air from side to side. While K-9 Leon was attempting to bring the suspect down, other officers were busy making entry through the right rear passenger door of the disabled vehicle, to rescue the infant who was face down and in respiratory distress. Never releasing his hold on the suspect's arm at anytime until his handler gave the release command, K-9 Leon brought the suspect down on top of himself, with the suspect partly landing in the driver's seat of the disabled vehicle and K-9 Leon disappearing from view as the overhead TV News Helicopters captured the event as it unfolded on live television. The infant was rushed to the hospital and made a full recovery. The suspect was taken into custody, transported to a hospital for treatment of his injuries and later booked at the Maricopa County Jail, where he is currently awaiting trial on multiple charges. As for K-9 Leon, people from the community were so concerned for his health and safety that after witnessing what had happened on live TV and later on in the day on the evening news, they began calling the Mesa Police Department to express their concern for K-9 Leon and wanted to know if he was injured and how he was doing. Officer Lafontaine and K-9 Leon granted television and newspaper interviews a few days later, to show all the concerned citizens that K-9 Leon was doing just fine and came out of the incident unscathed. K-9 Leon and Officer LaFontaine were later awarded the National Deployment of the Year Award for this freeway hostage incident, by the National Police Canine Association.

In the early morning hours of November 2nd, 2006, a year long rash of ATM thefts in the east valley came to an end. Officer Lafontaine and K-9 Leon responded to a request for assistance call by the patrol division, who was setting up a perimeter to locate suspects who had fled on foot from a vehicle that was spotted by a Mesa Patrol Officer, in the vicinity of Signal Butte and Madero roads. The suspect vehicle was towing a trailer containing a bank Automatic Teller Machine (ATM), just stolen from the M&I Thunderbird Bank branch, located on Baseline and Crimson roads, triggering an automated panic call by the bank to the Mesa Police Department. The suspects had used a stolen fork lift from a nearby construction site to remove the ATM, which was then loaded onto a stolen trailer being towed by a vehicle belonging to one of the suspects. Officers were able to locate one of the suspects hiding between two air conditioners. After the suspect refused numerous requests to comply with orders by the Police, K-9 Leon was deployed by his handler to flush the suspect out into the open. After the suspect attempted to fight with K-9 Leon, he was subdued and taken into Police custody, then transported to a local hospital for treatment of his injuries. Detectives were able to locate the second suspect who was also taken into custody.

On March 20th, 2007, at approximately 22:15 hours, Officer Lafontaine detained a suspicious person on a bike in the K-Mart Parking Lot, located on the northwest corner of Lindsay Road and Main Street, in Mesa. Upon learning that the 19 year old detained subject was wanted on outstanding warrants for burglary and a probation violation, Officer Lafontaine attempted to take the suspect into custody with the suspect resisting arrest. The suspect assaulted Officer Lafontaine by throwing his bicycle at him, then proceeded to run south in the parking lot towards Main Street. Officer Lafontaine then deployed K-9 Leon to apprehend the fleeing suspect, who continued to run south through the parking lot and then proceeded to cross the street. K-9 Leon continued on in pursuit of the suspect and as he ran south across Main Street, he was struck by a car. Officer Lafontaine rushed over to his K-9 partner, placed him in his vehicle and proceeded to rush him to the veterinarian hospital, where K-9 Leon was pronounced dead on arrival. The suspect was later apprehended by Mesa Police Officers. In addition to being booked on the outstanding warrants, the suspect was also booked on suspicion of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and false reporting.

K-9 Leon is remembered not only for his courageousness and his agility, but also for his playful spirit. He is missed by his handler and his family, whom he resided with when he wasn't on duty, members of the Mesa K-9 Unit and by members of the Mesa Police Department.




"Officer John Lafontaine & K-9 Leon"

Photo Page for Officer John Lafontaine and K-9 Leon

If you wish to make a donation to the Arizona Police K-9 Memorial in Memory of K-9 Leon, please send checks to the address listed below. Funds will be used to add K-9 Leon's name to the K-9 Memorial at Wesley Bolin Plaza, in addition to the upkeep of the K-9 Memorial and this web site.

Arizona Police K-9 Memorial
3370 N. Hayden Road
No. 123-411
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

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