By Joe Beck
Online tributes to an injured Winchester police dog poured in from around the world as he recovered Monday from surgery to mend a leg broken during the arrest of two burglary suspects Friday night.
Winchester police officials say K-9 officer Kota broke his right front leg when he fell through the hardwood floor of an attic crawl space of a residence in the 900 block of Franklin Street.
Kota fell while in the midst of detaining one of two burglary suspects during a police search for the suspects, later identified by police as Mitchell Statler Brown, 19, and Robert Stanley Crosen III, 35, both of Winchester.
Police said both men were arrested at the scene and charged with burglary.
Crosen was taken to Winchester Medical Center, and Brown was jailed at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center.
Authorities said the incident began about 9 p.m. when police took a report of two people walking through a backyard and flashing lights inside a house unoccupied by the owner, who had been arrested earlier in the week by Winchester police.
One of the investigating officers called for a police dog to respond to the scene after noticing a door to the house was open, according to a police statement.
Kota and Cpl. B.N. Kotynski-Neer arrived and entered the house. Police say they discovered Brown and Crosen hiding in an attic crawl space.
Kota, following his training for such situations, bit one of the suspects on the arm before falling through the floor, Kotynski-Neer said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Kotynski-Neer described herself as humbled by a flood of social media messages from well-wishers as far away as Singapore, the Philipines and California.
"I'm just taken aback and in awe of people's desire to show their support for someone, an animal they don't even know," Kotynski-Neer said. It's incredible. It definitely restores my faith in my humanity."
As she spoke during the news conference, news reached her that Kota was sleeping and doing well after coming through surgery. He is expected to rejoin Kotynsk-Neer at their home today.
Kotynski-Neer said Kota ran to the back of the attic as she and another officer were trying to handcuff one of the suspects in the crawl space.
"When he first fell we had hands on one individual," Kotynski-Neer said. "We were trying to handcuff him.
"I knew my dog had made contact with someone in the back of the attic," Kotynski-Neer said, adding she couldn't see the other suspect or Kota
"I could just hear him and the individual he had made contact with and then we heard a loud crash, and Koto was yelping," Kotynski-Neer said.
Even with his broken leg, Koto managed to make his way back up to the second floor where the officers were completing the arrests, Kotynski said.
"He made it back up to us before I could check on him," she said.
Kotynski-Neer said she didn't realize the seriousness of his injury until she noticed he was having trouble putting weight on the right foreleg. At that point, Koto was taken to the veterinary clinic where he underwent Monday's surgery.
Kotynski-Neer began to tear up and took a few moments to compose herself as she described what Koto's absence meant to her over the weekend. The two have worked and lived together since completing training in May 2009.
On Saturday, the day after the incident, she got ready to go to work and went through her routine of putting on boots, belt and then grabbed for Koto's leash.
"That was hard," Kotynski-Neer said. "I went to grab it out of habit, and he wasn't coming."
Police Chief Kevin Sanzenbacher issued a written statement praising Kota for "heroic service in protecting our officers and the community."
"He and the officers with him faced a challenge and risk similar to those officers face every day and performed in a manner that makes us proud," Sanzenbacher said. "The members of the (Winchester Police Department) will do whatever it takes to make sure that the team of Kota and Cpl. Kotynski-Neer get to return to duty together as quickly as possible."
Police said people have inquired about where to send donations for Kota's treatment. Anyone wishing to donate can mail a check to: Winchester/Frederick County Law Enforcement Foundation, 231 E. Piccadilly, St., Winchester, Va 22601. Donors should designate on the check that it is "for Kota."
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or email@example.com