K9 Arlo’s story: The former police dog survived two fatal gunshot wounds

K9 Arlo is one of social media’s most popular dogs. He received national attention (and millions of TikTok followers) after surviving two nearly-fatal gunshot wounds while on the line of duty with members of Thurston County police. Arlo received a standing ovation as he left the hospital with help from his handler and has since made a stunning recovery. 

Arlo’s social media following continues to grow as more netizens get hooked to the adorable German Shepherd’s content. K9 Arlo swapped a career in the K9 unit for a social media career, and he’s doing quite well. Below, we looked at K9 Arlo’s story and the controversy surrounding the dog’s shooting. 

In January 2021, K9 Arlo suffered gunshot wounds to the vertebrae and leg. One bullet lodged in near his spine. Doctors gave Arlo minimal chances of survival, but the surgery worked. 

“It is a miracle that Arlo’s still alive,” Dr. Jen Warnock, the surgeon who operated on Arlo, said in a statement. “The C6 vertebra was shattered; the bullet missed an artery that would’ve killed him by a millimeter; it could’ve destroyed his carotid artery.”

Arlo underwent rehab after surgery, swiftly regaining mobility. Nevertheless, the Sheriff’s Department opted to retire Arlo as they didn’t want the dog to suffer while serving the community. 

“It’s just not worth it to the Sheriff’s Office or to the K9 handler or to the community to have a dog in pain all the time, but that dog does want to go to work,” Sherriff John Snaza told The Olympian

Arlo’s handler, former deputy Tyler Turpin, acquired him for $1 in April 2021. In May 2021, Tyler wrote on Instagram that Arlo was finding it hard adjusting to retirement:

“Retirement hasn’t been the easiest for Arlo but he’s trying to get back into the groove. We miss every day we were at work together even though it was a short 2 years on the road. Big things coming for us though and can’t wait to continue to tell his story.”

Based on videos posted on social media, Arlo appears to have recovered fully. Furthermore, he still retains his K9 instincts. Turpin’s posts still express regret that Arlo was forced to retire. “Arlo loved his job,” he wrote on 5th January 2022. “It was his life and he was damn good at it.”

Whether he returns to work or not, Arlo will always be the dog that survived a near-fatal gunshot wound to the vertebrae. Arlo’s story is one of hope and not giving up. On the anniversary of Arlo’s shooting, Turpin wrote:

“Why do I keep telling this story one year later? For one he deserves to tell his story. Two, to give hope to others. To show a story where we both wanted to give up multiple times but because we had a community around us, we didn’t.”

When Arlo was rushed to the hospital to undergo emergency surgery, the narrative was he got shot in an officer-involved shooting (per a GoFundMe page created to pay for Arlo’s treatment). News outlets ran with the story, even as authorities failed to provide a clear account of the shooting. 

Most aspects of the incident were clearly defined: police apprehended a suspect after a high-speed chase, the suspect pointed a gun at the police, and Arlo was shot in the altercation. However, authorities declined to reveal the identity of Arlo’s shooter. 

In a since-deleted post, Turpin claimed that the suspect, Ortiz Bucio, shot Arlo. However, investigators found no shell casings from the suspect’s gun, meaning he didn’t fire a shot. All bullets fired came from the police. 

Turpin said he fired thrice after seeing a flash from Ortiz’s gun. “Deputy Turpin advised he was in fear for his life,” a report about the incident read. Five deputies and one Patrol trooper fired on Ortiz for seven seconds, shooting his abdomen, wrist, and thigh. 

Turpin said he sent Arlo to apprehend Ortiz before the suspect pointed his gun. However, video evidence indicated that Arlo arrived at Ortiz’s location after he collapsed, suggesting police continued to fire after Ortiz hit the ground. Sheriff Snaza defended the officer’s actions:

“Once the individual came out, you know, the dog is released and all of a sudden the gun is displayed. So, I mean it was like simultaneously. It was unfortunate it happened like that, but in those kinds of scenarios you are trying to protect lives.”

The incident attracted a use-of-force investigation by the Sheriff’s Critical Incident Investigation Team. The six police officers involved in the shooting were suspended pending the investigation but returned to work after being cleared of criminal wrongdoing. 

As the incident details attracted more attention, the police denied misleading the public. “To the best of my knowledge we did not make any statements that the dog was shot by the suspect or was shot by the officers until we were very comfortable,” Jacob Dracolby, chief criminal deputy of investigations at Mason County Sheriff’s Office, told The Intercept.

Lt. Carla Carter started a GoFundMe campaign for Arlo that raised over $73,000 for Arlo’s care. By June 2021, most of the cash remained unused as Arlo’s handler, former deputy Tyler Turpin, refused to take it.

“It just got really confusing, but I want Arlo to receive what the intention was of the citizens that donated. I have no intent on withholding the money or spending it in another way that isn’t purely within the intentions of the people that donated it,” Carter told The Olympian

Turpin left the Sheriff’s department after allegedly being forced out by internal pressure caused by an investigation into his social media finances. In late May 2021, Tyler announced his intention to unseat Sheriff John Snaza in the 2022 election. 

“I don’t have anything personal against him,” Sheriff Snaza told The Olympian. “I wish Tyler (Turpin) the very best at whatever he chooses to do, but I plan on being the Sheriff for a long time. We’ll see how it goes.”

In April 2021, Turpin shared that funding for Arlo’s care came from Project K9 Hero. “Knowing that Arlo’s medical bills would be taken care by @projectk9hero was a huge relief and blessing,” he wrote. 

Carter said she almost donated the money to nonprofits that care for animals but didn’t go through with the plan. “That money is just going to sit there until there is a clear path that aligns with the citizen’s intention of providing care for a service animal that was wounded,” Carter said. 

She expressed willingness to work with Turpin if he reached out. Turpin responded to Carter’s claim by stating that the Sheriff’s office didn’t offer him money for Arlo’s care. On 20th June 2021, Tyler wrote on Instagram:

“I’m not sure if they are angry that I left or worried that I’m running for Sheriff. I’m just very confused because that money was never offered for Arlo’s medical care. It was actually the opposite.”