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The ultimate sacrifice: Sgt. Brandon Smith’s journey with K9 Officer Bingo

July 4, 2024  By Stephen Metelsky

Photo: Brandon Smith, Toronto Police Service

“Bingo gave his life for me. He saved my life, and he did it without hesitation,” said Sgt. Brandon Smith, a canine handler with Toronto Police Service (TPS). “Bingo was doing his job. If it wasn’t for him, it would have been me that got shot.”

The emotion in the officer’s voice was evident. Toronto Police suffered a tremendous loss when K9 officer Bingo was shot while pursuing a suspect who was wanted for second-degree murder in the summer of 2023.

For Smith, a 25-year policing veteran, it was a devastating professional and personal loss for him and his family. “Bingo wasn’t just a pet; he was my partner. It’s like losing a family member.”

In July 2022, Bingo arrived at TPS and was immediately paired with Smith. They were subjected to 16 weeks of intensive training where Bingo was trained as a “general purpose” K9 who received specialized training on the “tracking of fresh human scent.”

Bingo successfully passed the K9 course and graduated in Dec. 2022. He was immediately embraced as a member of TPS. They presently have 33 K9 officers and 22 police handlers. The K9 officers specialize in search and rescue, drug and weapon detection, explosives and cadaver searches.

“In policing, we recognize police dogs as officers, just as we are,” Smith said. “Bingo was out there protecting the people of Toronto. Bingo was an officer like anybody else. He had a job to do, and he loved his job. Bingo was a better partner than some human partners I’ve had.”

After graduation, Bingo hit the ground running with his new partner. They were inseparable and together 24/7. They had some immediate successes on the streets of Toronto.

One of Bingo’s first calls involved a carjacking that occurred at Square One Mall in Mississauga. When the suspects were pursued into Toronto, Smith and Bingo were called out after the stolen vehicle had been abandoned.

While they tracked the scent trail of the suspects, Bingo “indicated on some hidden property,” Smith recalled. That hidden property was a Glock 27 with a fully loaded extended 30-round magazine.

“We never would have found that gun if it weren’t for Bingo. That gun would have been recovered later by one of the suspects. It was an important find,” Smith said. “That type of gun with an extended magazine is incredibly dangerous. It was one more gun taken off the streets of Toronto.”

Bingo also made an important arrest in an incident involving a “break-and-enter in progress”. “Most break-and-enters involve no one being inside,” Smith recalled, but this call was different. The suspect was still inside the home and Bingo immediately “indicated that people were there.”

“It is safer to have the dog go inside. If someone is hiding and waiting for you it is incredibly dangerous,” Smith said. “By using their scent skills, they can tell if someone is there without seeing them.”

“There is a unique bond between a dog handler and their dog,” said Chief Myron Demkiw.

Bingo located the suspect hiding in a bedroom, and he was arrested without incident.

On the fateful evening of July 25, 2023, Smith and Bingo were dispatched near Dixon and Kipling Road. Officers had previously been in a foot pursuit with a murder suspect and had lost him. The suspect was hiding and lying low somewhere. Once a large perimeter had been set up, Smith and Bingo were called to attend.

Once the emergency task force (ETF) was present, Smith and Bingo started their track.

“We tracked the suspect through a yard and over a fence into a second backyard,” Smith recalled. “Bingo tracked the suspect along the fence into a dark corner that was covered with brush. We couldn’t see that the suspect was there.”

Bingo was deployed into the dark corner as Smith focused on his K9 partner. It was at that moment Smith saw the suspect.

“I saw the suspect and he started shooting. He shot Bingo and he tried to shoot me,” Smith said. Bingo saved Sgt. Smith’s life, but the K9 officer tragically lost his life when he valiantly pursued the armed suspect that evening.

“If it hadn’t been for Bingo that night, it would have been me or someone else,” said Smith.

Smith took time off after the tragic event. The support he and his family received was overwhelming.

When Smith returned to work, he had the option to leave the K9 unit – but he wanted to stay. He started training his new partner Jimmy, who has since passed his training and is presently working the streets of Toronto.

“Jimmy will never replace Bingo, but he fills the gap after Bingo got shot,” Smith said.

In a statement, TPS Chief Myron Demkiw said Bingo’s death was “senseless and tragic.”

“There is a unique bond between a dog handler and their dog,” said Demkiw. “They work together for many weeks during their training and the dogs become part of the officers’ immediate families.”

To permanently commemorate Bingo’s memory and his ultimate sacrifice, Smith got a tattoo of his K9 partner on his back. “Bingo had my back that day and he will always have my back now,” he said.

Bingo: A hero in life – not death.

Stephen Metelsky, M.A., is an author, professor and (ret.) sergeant. Follow him on X @StephenMetelsky.

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