“On an early Tuesday morning Scioto County Sheriff’s officer K-9 ‘Spock’ was shot and killed in the line of duty while in pursuit of an armed robber.
– End of watch: February 15, 1994 –
May we honor Spock and all faithful K-9s for their selfless service and sacrifice.”
Lowered in by crane Friday morning, a well-polished plaque/sculpture, including a representation of the heroic K-9 in question, sits outside Portsmouth’s first off leash dog park formally dedicated Friday evening. The above story of how Spock gave his life is carved into the sculpture’s base.
“This incident happened 25 years ago,” said Spock’s handler Alan Lewis, who eventually retired from the Pike County Sheriff’s Office but was working in Scioto County at the time of Spock’s death. Lewis was on hand for the formal opening of the dog park named, in honor of his one-time four-legged partner.
“It’s an honor to be here to see this after all these years,” said Lewis, who had earlier stated he might not be around at all if it wasn’t for Spock. As the plaque indicates, Lewis said the two were chasing an armed suspect into some woods when Spock stopped and was barking at his partner when he was shot and killed.
“He kept me from walking into an ambush,” said Lewis, who noted Spock served as Scioto County’s first K-9 officer.
Besides Lewis, roughly 80 to 100 people showed up Friday to honor Spock and celebrate the opening of Portsmouth’s shiny new dog park. There were actually so many people inside the park, a number of dog owners reportedly turned around and left as they feared the park was overcrowded.
Portsmouth Ward 1 City Councilman Sean Dunne, who played a major role in creation of the park, briefly addressed the crowd before Lewis cut the ceremonial ribbon officially opening the park. Dunne later said he was surprised and happy at the huge turnout and overwhelming support Spock Park is garnering.
As previously reported, Spock is not the only fallen law enforcement officer honored in the new park. A carved stone beneath a tree placed in the middle of the park commemorates three fallen Portsmouth city police officers. One of those is Lt. Norman L. Vogel, who’s watch tragically ended Nov. 23, 1951. Having learned of the plaque honoring her father through the Portsmouth Daily Times, Paula Jones visited her hometown for the opening of the park Friday, making the drive from where she now lives in Columbus.
Jones admitted unfortunately she does not remember much about her police officer father. She had just turned three when he and his partner went to respond to a call at what was then a railroad yard, near the viaduct and across the street from where several restaurants and Portsmouth’s movie theater now stand.
On their way to the call, Jones said a large semi-truck T-boned their squad car. The incident was a tragic accident, according to Jones, who said the cause was a malfunctioning traffic signal.
She added her father died instantly. Lt. Vogel was in roughly his mid-30s.
Again, while Jones said she does not remember much of her father, she does recall visiting a local five and dime store to make payments on what at the time, she called “her baby.”
Jones’ parents had asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She apparently picked out a doll in a local store. Her father made arrangements to make payments on the doll and allowed the young Jones to actually make those payments herself with money he gave her. After her mother learned of her husband’s death, she gave the doll to her daughter to comfort her when she told the young girl her father wasn’t coming home.
“This whole thing is amazing,” Jones said. “I’m so touched. I just couldn’t believe it when I found out… It’s wonderful to know he’s still remembered in that way.” Jones added her father’s name also appears on a state police officers memorial.
The two other Portsmouth officers honored in Spock Park are Patrolman Paul Frederick, who died Feb. 7, 1928 and Detective John Barnes, who gave all Feb. 26, 1932.
As for Jones, she said she grew up in Portsmouth and lived here until leaving for college. Now 70, Jones said she remembers times when Portsmouth just didn’t have a lot to offer.
“This,” she added, indicating the park, “is a sign of life. It’s very encouraging.”
Plenty of others agreed with her, including Jon Lavender who said he has begun visiting the park often with German Shepherd Mongo. (The park has been operational for a couple of weeks even though the grand opening was Friday.) If Mongo behaves himself in the park, both he and his owner get to have some ice cream on the ride back to their home in Lucasville.
“This is just incredible,” said Sandra Graven, visiting with Yorkshire Terrier Dotty, who sported a big pink bow. Graven added she has been following developments regarding the coming Portsmouth skateboard park, a new hotel planned for not far from the dog park as well as other coming attractions.
A $43,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and an additional $8,000 grant from the Scioto Foundation paid for Spock park. Construction was a promise Dunne made when he first ran for city council in 2017. But in talking about the park, Dunne always has been eager to share credit especially with Portsmouth Community Development Director Tracy Shearer. Local design engineer Nathan Prosch came up with the design for the park, which features portions for large and small dogs. Community group Main Street Portsmouth sponsored the grand opening and handled installation of landscaping around the park.
“I just can’t wait to see what happens next,” Gravern said. “These are the kinds of things Portsmouth has needed for quite a while.”
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370- 0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.