Bomb-Sniffing Dog Clears Package

WHEELING – The Wheeling Police Department’s new bomb-sniffing dog unit was put into action this morning after a suspicious package was discovered inside the Intermodal Transportation Center at 14th and Main streets.

Police were notified just after 8 a.m. by parking garage personnel that a package with tape around it was spotted on an upper floor of the parking facility. Police immediately closed the structure and brought in Officer Garrett Pugh and the bomb-sniffing dog Declan.

Within 30 minutes, the dog had determined there were no explosives in the package or in the facility. The package turned out to be building tile materials.

Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger praised the quick action of the new police dog, a Dutch Malinois, which has been trained specifically to sniff out explosives.

“K-9 Declan is the newest member of the department, one of our five K-9 units and one of, I think, three bomb dogs in the state,” Schwertfeger said. “He is a dual purpose detail dog. He can do building and article searches but his main duty is to sniff explosives.”

In place for just one week, Declan has been called into action several times.

“He’s already been utilized multiple times since we got him. He was used at the federal building (in Wheeling) last week and at the suspect’s home and vehicle in Bridgeport. We took him over there to search for explosives.”

Last week, former city police officer Thomas J. Piccard fired multiple shots into the Federal Building on Chapline Street before being fatally shot. Several federal building workers received slight injuries during the shooting.

Piccard’s vehicle and mobile home in Bridgeport were searched after he left a handwritten message that led police to suspect explosives could be at that location. The bomb dog did not detect any problems at the Bridgeport or Wheeling locations following the shooting.

The police chief said having the bomb dog in the department saves critical time when potentially dealing with explosives.

“On a morning like this we would have had to shut down the Intermodal for hours until we got a response team from Charleston or Huntington or even Pittsburgh to determine whether or not this package was safe. Today we were able to clear in 30 minutes,” Schwertfeger commented.

The chief said part of his strategic plan is to establish an ordnance disposal unit within the department, however, it takes training and more funding than currently available within his budget.

“It’s expensive but it’s my goal,” Schwertfeger said.

Pugh said while Declan can participate in a number of police duties, he is not trained to detects narcotics.

“He is specifically trained to sniff for powders, explosives,” Pugh said. “He has been great to work with.”