URBANA, Ill. (WAND) - A K-9 officer was instrumental in helping Urbana police save a man who was threatening suicide.
In a tense situation that unfolded Saturday morning, Urbana police responded to a 911 call about a man who was inside of a bus shelter in the 1000 block of W. Green St. They found a 38-year-old man holding a knife.
The man had cut and stabbed himself in front of police, according to a press release, and was threatening to kill himself.
Urbana police spoke to the man for over an hour in an effort to calm the situation. They said they learned the man was fond of dogs.
University of Illinois Police Officer Alex Transwas at home on a scheduled day off with Lollipop, his K-9 partner. They quickly responded when called in and came to the bus shelter.
Police told the man he could talk to a friend who was summoned to the scene, have a cigarette and speak to Lollipop if he dropped the knife. He surrendered the knife and had the chance to meet Lollipop before an ambulance took him to a hospital to be assessed.
There were no injuries reported.
U of I police started using therapy dogs in July 2020, when Police Chief Alice Cary started at the department. She brought K-9 Archie with her from her previous job as police chief at the University of Maryland Baltimore. Since then, the U of I Police Department said it added K-9 officers Lollipop, Winston and Rosie.
“The therapy K9s and their handlers have made a huge impact in just the short time they have been in Champaign-Urbana,” Cary said. “Already, they’ve comforted families involved in a Christmas Eve fire, participated in the interview of a young victim of child abuse, and now helped Urbana Police to successfully de-escalate a very serious call involving an armed individual.”
Therapy dogs are available on patrol shifts and during outreach events, where community members can be part of positive interactions with police or take a moment to relieve anxiety.
The dogs will continue to be around, police said, especially in a part of the semester when mental health crisis calls start to peak.
“Therapy dogs in general are known to reduce stress and get people out of their mental anguish at times,” Cary said. “They are used a lot of times for students who have pre-test anxiety dealing with midterm or final exams. When students pet the dogs, it helps to get them out of that stressful mind space, if only for a minute. We’ve seen that even a moment’s time with an animal can mean a whole lot to some people.”