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Bannockburn police look to honor K-9

Bannockburn Police Officer Mundeleresident Dave Lemmer is helping his department raise money this for life-size memorial for is partner Dex

Bannockburn Police Officer and Mundelein resident Dave Lemmer is helping his department raise money this for a life-size memorial for is partner, Dex, who died late last year. | Courtesy of Officer Dave Lemmer

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Updated: March 24, 2014 3:48AM

As they searched for suspects accused of an armed robbery of a Mundelein grocer, police turned to a veteran with the Bannockburn department.

At first, the manhunt focused on a neighborhood south of the Supermercado Vargas store, where the robbers brandished guns and escaped with cash, police said.

They found no signs of the men.

But on the way back to the start of the track, the Bannockburn partner, known as “Dex,” discovered a pair of gloves lying in a flowerbed next to a home.

And Dex lay right down next to the small garden — just what his training told him to do.

Dex, an 8-year-old German shepherd, or really his keen nose, found an important piece of evidence in the Aug. 9, 2013, robbery: the gloves contained DNA that linked their owner to the crime, police said.

The reliable K-9 abruptly died in late November after a celebrated career with Bannockburn police. A tumor had ruptured his spleen, forcing his handler to put him down.

“I was pretty much devastated,” Officer Dave Lemmer said. “It was probably one of the worst things I’ve ever had to go through. It pretty much equated to the loss of a child.”

Lemmer and Dex were an inseparable pair.

They rode patrols together. And after their night shifts, they headed back to their Mundelein home, where Dex looked like a normal dog, often curled up beside Lemmer’s feet.

Except this dog had some major training — 22 months worth before he even hit the streets.

“I was very proud of him,” Lemmer said. “He always did good.”

To recognize his six years in the line of duty, Bannockburn is developing plans for a life-sized, bronze statue. Police are planning to seek donations for Dex’s memorial.

“Dex meant everything to officer Lemmer,” Police Chief Ronald Price said. “…They were always on call. They were always willing to go out and assist other departments. That was the level of the devotion that they had to each other and to the departments in Lake County.”

In one bust, Dex was simply there at the right time.

Sitting inside their patrol car in Bannockburn Green, he alerted his partner to a man ripping copper gutters off a Walgreens store. With backup from Deerfield police, the agencies nabbed the suspect who fled into a wooded area next to the shopping center.

And in the Mundelein case, the discovery of the gloves helped lead to the arrest of three men. Authorities executed a search warrant in the 300 block of Willow Drive in Round Lake Park on Aug. 31, and found evidence tying the suspects to the robbery, as well as narcotics, police said. Two of the men also face drug-related charges.

“If it wasn’t for the dog finding these gloves, it wouldn’t have been solved that quickly, maybe not even at all,” Lemmer said.

He’s been working with another German shepherd, just starting obedience lessons. The department relies on a grant to cover most of its K-9 expenses, totaling $6,000 to $7,000 a year.

But no dog can replace Dex.

“You’ll never find one in the world identical to what he could do,” Lemmer said.

Lemmer has served more than three decades with Bannockburn.

“The last six years with the dog have been the best years of my career,” Lemmer said.

He looks forward to Dex’s memorial, a permanent legacy of the canine’s own career.

“His life wasn’t meaningless,” he said.

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