Norman_Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troopers are often the first responders to emergency situations; traffic accidents, natural disasters and much more. They also specialize in manhunts and offer assistance all over the state.
OHP says after the 2003 month long manhunt in Bristow, Oklahoma for Scott Eizember, they knew they needed to improve their program. And, one way they've been able to do that is with man's best friend. OHP had the hounds for this year's manhunt for Joshua Muller and it cost over $93,000, so you can only imagine what it cost to search for Eizember with no dogs at all.
OHP set up a mock manhunt in Norman where the dogs' skills were tested. An actor played the role of a fugitive for about three hours. He ran all throughout a field leaving nothing behind but his scent. Trooper Tommy Hobbs rounded up his hounds and mule - readying himself for a mock manhunt.
"The mule is used to get us from one place to the next. We can jump a fence and the mule will jump it," says Hobbs. He says their hounds are a cross breed of a Black and Tan, Blue Tic, and Red Stripe. They're often mistaken for Bloodhounds, but they're not. He says they're a vital part of manhunts now, and they can pick up on a scent up to four hours old. "Aggressive, willing to go, they're consistent - they're actual troopers," Hobbs says.
After the Joshua Muller manhunt in Comanche County, Oklahoma Highway Patrol was contacted to set up mock manhunts in other cities. At this particular mock manhunt, over 40 officers, troopers and 7News watched and waited in Norman for a sighting of the hounds hunting for their fugitive. In about 30 minutes, Becky the Mule, Trooper Hobbs and five hounds found the fake fugitive. During the Muller manhunt, it took the hounds around four days to track the fugitive. And, they say, the only reason it took as long as it it did was that the area they were searching had been tainted with the scents of other troopers.
Lieutenant Berry Heath says manhunts are just as important as trooper involved shootings, drug busts, assaults and accidents. "We bring a lot of tools to a manhunt and the dogs and the dogs are one piece of that entire picture. They are a very valuable tool and they have proven themselves as a valuable tool," says Heath.