(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Outside the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO), deputies and Southern Colorado community members gathered to honor the memory of K9 Jinx.

“Today is the one-year anniversary of Jinx’s sacrifice for his human partners,” EPSO Sheriff, Joe Roybal, said. “It cannot be overstated that Jinx’s sacrifice absolutely ensured that four police officers went home safely to their family that night, one year ago today.”

On April 11, 2022, Jinx went out with his handler, Deputy Ronnie Hancock, to a call in Manitou Springs. While Jinx was on duty protecting both EPSO and Manitou Springs Police Department, he was shot and killed in the line of duty.

“So for an officer to make the decision to release, release the K9, to protect the partners or themselves is no easy feat,” Roybal said. “And I commend Deputy Hancock for making that hard decision that night to deploy K9 teams to keep the rest of the officers, including himself, safe.”

Now one year later, the Hancock’s continue to grieve the loss of their dog.

“That night was hard enough to deal with the loss of Jinx and then to find out that anyone that would harm a police K9 like that would do no jail time or very minimal punishment,” Hancock said. “It was just another shot to the stomach for me, knowing that, that individual that night could have not gotten any punishment, all for doing what he did to Jinx.”

A remembrance ceremony on Tuesday morning with a photo of K9 Jinx on the podium.

Julie Hancock is working to create a law that would further protect K9 dogs in the line of duty and ensure stricter punishment for those who kill or injure K9s in the line of duty.

“Ultimately, we would like them to be seen as an extension of their handler, that they are part of the police force and that whoever hurts, harms a working K9 will serve jail time, prison,” Julie Hancock said. “Because if they’re willing to hurt a K9, they’re willing to hurt our officers as well. So it’s important that we send a message to people that, you know, if you do this, there’s going to be a harsh penalty that you will have to serve. “

Sheriff Joe Roybal with Julie Hancock and Deputy Ronnie Hancock on Tuesday morning.

Deputy Hancock shared that Jinx loved working and could flip a switch between playing at home and working with him.

“It’s funny. Every time I would go out and to his kennel to get him ready for work, he’s very in tune with his equipment, my equipment. And any time that he saw me in my green uniform that we wear for K9, he knew it was time to go to work. And he got really excited about putting his harness on, loading up in the truck.”

K9 Jinx outside playing. Courtesy: Julie Hancock

The special bond shared between handler and K9 is one that Hancock will hold in his heart.

“Again, he’s not just a dog. He was my partner,” Hancock said. “And I say this often, those two years, even though it was short, I spent probably more time with Jinx than I did my family during those two years with all the training that we put in with them and all the time we spent on the road and on our shifts.”

Roybal shared that EPSO is working on bringing another unit of K9s to help protect Southern Colorado.

“We’re in the process of purchasing another K9 unit for our community because the work they do is just tremendous,” Roybal said. “And one year ago today marks the importance of that relationship between a handler and their K9 partners.”

The memory of Jinx continues to live on with EPSO and in the hearts of his handlers.

“Like I said, I relied on him to make sure that not only did I stay safe, but my other fellow law enforcement officers stayed safe,” Hancock said. “He would clear houses for us so that we knew it was safe for us. So, I put a lot of trust in Jinx, and in turn, he put a lot of trust in me.”

During this challenging time, Ronnie Hancock reflected on the support and comfort his family has received from EPSO.

“The support that the sheriff’s office and all the deputies from the sheriff’s office just last year, especially this last week, has been unbelievable,” Hancock said. “It means so much to me and my family to know that they support us and they love us. So, it just helps us get through like this morning. And today is going to be a tough day.”