By Stan Maddux
UNION MILLS, Ind. – An Indiana police officer is being praised for playing cowboy in returning several farm animals running loose in the dark to safety.
The actions of LaPorte County Sheriff’s Deputy Keith Waltz had gone unnoticed until the shocked owners returned home from a weekend camping trip and saw him on surveillance video rounding up their two horses, a donkey and two goats.
Dustin Erwin said he immediately called the sheriff to give thanks at a time when law enforcement, given the political turmoil nationwide, could use a morale booster.
“It isn’t anything we normally expect the police officer to have to do but here he was just putting our animals back for us. I thought it would be a nice way to express appreciation,” Erwin said.
The deputy’s efforts were recognized during the Aug. 12 meeting of the LaPorte County Sheriff Merit Commission.
“It’s reassuring to the public that our deputies are doing the right thing even when nobody else is seemingly watching,” said LaPorte County Sheriff John Boyd.
The animals were on a neighbor’s property about a block away from their pasture when the officer pulled up near Union Mills, a farming community of less than 2,000 residents 30 miles south of Lake Michigan.
Boyd said Waltz was leading one of the horses back home by its halter when the other animals formed “a straight line” behind them and followed. The animals were back inside the fence when Waltz locked the gate and quietly went on his way.
His work in returning the animals to the hobby farm was finished in about a half hour. The animals belong to Erwin and his family, who were two hours away on a camping trip at Pokagon State Park near Angola when the animals wandered off, apparently through an unsecured gate.
After returning home, Erwin said he noticed some fresh horse manure in the front yard but nothing else seemed out of the ordinary. Wondering if someone had tampered with the horses, Erwin began watching the video from his home security system.
Popping up on his screen, eventually, was the officer escorting the once stray animals like a sheep herder. “Had we not had the cameras out, we wouldn’t have known what happened and that the police did that,” he said.
In his letter of commendation, Boyd told the officer, “we’ve said a number of times to our staff assume you are being recorded at all times. In this case you were and you got caught doing the right thing.”
Waltz has been with the sheriff’s office for about 20 years.