ATF dog retires after helping to bust St. Louis church fires suspect

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - A very important member of the Regional Bomb and Arson Unit is retiring Friday. The dog has been critical in finding clues in some recent high profile cases.

Last week when federal, city and county law enforcement officials held a joint news conference to announce the arrest of a suspected serial arsonist; standing near the podium was agent Chloe. She is an ATF canine who sniffs out clues at the scene of fires. Investigators praised her work in the recent investigation but also announced she would soon be giving up her badge and retiring.

A string of church arson fires that began in early last month left parishioners on edge, and kept fire investigators very busy. Working side by side with ATF and St. Louis County and City officers was Chloe, an actual law enforcement officer trained by the ATF to sniff for accelerants at suspicious fires.

Chloe's sharp senses was very instrumental in cracking the church fires. She helped investigators determine that some of the fires had been started by gasoline. When a suspect was arrested in two of the fires, containers of gasoline were found in his car.

Officer David Sandbach was Chloe's handler for the past 7 years with the St. Louis Regional Bomb and Arson Unit. He demonstrates how she works at a crime scene by hiding an item doused with lighter fluid.

"We go in we do our search she'll sit down. I'll reward her with food, because that's the only way she gets to eat; is by working. We'll mark that area and continue our search." said David Sandbach.

Chloe will no longer have to work for food. She is retiring from the ATF at the age of 9. But she's not leaving Sandbach, she'll spend her retirement at his home.

"She's lived with me since we graduated so she's become part of the family. She'll continue to be part of the family and lay on the couch as dad gets to go to work." said David Sandbach.

Sandbach has a another dog. Soon a third will join the pack when Sandbach completes training with his new ATF dog. But it's clear that new pup has big paws to fill.

"She's been phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal," said David Sandbach.

Chloe and Detective Sandbach spent five intense weeks of training with the ATF before the federal agency handed her over to the county. The ATF has a policy of retiring their canine agents at the age of 10. Chloe just turned 9 last week.

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