From Staff Reports
KEYSER, W.Va. — Mineral County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Smith and K-9 Kira were awarded West Virginia K-9 Team of the Year by the West Virginia Police Canine Association earlier this month.
Smith started as a K-9 handler in 1993, and now works with Belgian Malinois Kira, who is certified in patrol tracking and narcotics.
The team has worked with Mineral County Sheriff’s Department, West Virginia State Police and the Potomac Highlands Drug Task force on several drug and criminal cases.
In one case, two heroin traffickers traveling into Keyser from Baltimore were stopped and a scan of their vehicle revealed 522 heroin capsules with street value of $31,220. Both offenders en-tered a plea in federal court and are serving time.
In a similar case, the K-9 scan they located 60 capsules of heroin with a street value of $3,600.
When a suspicious package was intercepted by officers, a K-9 scan revealed two pounds of hydroponic marijuana that came to Mineral County from California with a street value of $5,000.
The team also assisted in the M&T Bank robbery in Fort Ashby where they tracked the suspect from the bank to a nearby parking lot where his vehicle was parked. A cigarette butt found by Smith there was sent to the state police lab for DNA testing and came back as a match to the suspect, who was convicted in federal court and sent to prison.
Smith and Kira assisted in the BB&T Bank robbery in Fort Ashby and located money while performing the track, which then provided leads to check surveillance cameras from nearby businesses. In turn, a description of the suspect’s vehicle was obtained from the video and the suspect was captured. That suspect had committed more than eight bank robberies in a 10-month period.
The sheriff’s department also has a patrol, tracking and explosives dog, a Belgian Malinois named Dutch handled by Capt. R.J. Wingler, and a bloodhound, Gracie, handled by Deputy L.E. Virts.