This local hero and his dog squad companion Chuck shared an incredible career and an even more wonderful connection. With the recent release of Luke’s book, Man’s Best Friend, we had a chat with the Springwood based Police Officer about his incredible story.
Luke Warburton had just started work for the night when a job was called in at Nepean Hospital. The dog squad Sergeant happened to be driving past the hospital when the call came in, making him first to respond.
“I was greeted in the ambulance bay by hospital staff and walked into the emergency department. I could see a male who had taken a female doctor at knife point. He had her in a head lock and was pushing the knife into her throat. It was an emotional scene; the doctor was clearly scared, and the offender was incoherent and appeared to be affected by drugs,” he said.
Luke attempted to negotiate with the offender without success until two more police officers, Senior Constable Tim Duffy and Constable Lisa Myers from Penrith Police arrived. The three officers had a quick chat and decided to attempt to deploy the offender by using capsicum spray to immobilise him, then rushing in to wrestle him away from the doctor, but things didn’t go according to plan.
“During this struggle I heard two gunshots and realised I had been shot. The next few minutes were pretty frantic; there was a lot of blood and I feared my femoral artery had been hit. I was rushed straight into surgery where they attempted to stop the bleeding, which they eventually did, however this caused a secondary issue where my leg began to swell and I needed to go back into surgery to perform a fasciotomy to release the pressure – a procedure where the surgeons made two cuts on either side of my leg from my groin to my ankle on the inside and from my knee to my ankle on the outside. This was effective in stopping the swelling but has left me with minimal feeling and restricted use of my leg.”
Luke knows that his survival is largely due to the fact that the incident happened in an Emergency Department and he was able to be treated immediately, but the attack has left him needing ongoing physiotherapy four times a week to help with the pain.
“I was very lucky to have been shot in an Emergency Department of a major Sydney hospital. If it wasn’t for that I don’t think I would be here today. I initially went into surgery three times over the first 24-hour period and ended up with 14 surgeries all up. But my recovery is going well, and I’m hoping to be back on full hours soon,” he said.
While Luke was in the Emergency Department dealing with the call, back in his car was his ever faithful colleague, Chuck. Luke was sure that Chuck would have been in the car worried for his handler when he heard the gun shots, but Chuck didn’t have to wait long to be reunited with Luke after the incident.
“When I was in hospital and well enough, the Dog Unit organised for Chuck to come and see me in hospital. They wheeled me outside onto a veranda area and Chuck was allowed in to see me. He was so excited when he saw me, he tried to jump up and get into bed with me. I had never seen his tail wag so much – he was licking my face and was just so happy to see me. It was a special moment between Chuck and I.”
As well-known as Luke’s ED story is in the Greater Sydney community, Luke and Chuck shared another moment of heroism when they captured Australia’s Most Wanted Man – Malcolm Naden in Gloucester in 2012.
“Dog teams were deployed to support the Tactical Operations Unit, (TOU) at about midnight on March 22. I was there with two other Dog Teams and a team of about 25 TOU operatives. We surrounded a hut we believed he was camping in. When he was alerted to the police teams around the hut, he attempted to run from the scene into bushland, however was challenged by the TOU and I was there with Chuck. Chuck took hold of Naden by the left calf to ensure he couldn’t get away. It was great to be involved in such a big job.”
Naden was charged with the brutal 2005 murder of his neighbour Kristy Scholes, as well as 32 other counts including shooting with intent to murder a police officer – all of which he pleaded guilty to. He had been on the run, using his bush skills to survive and camp in remote areas. After Chuck’s brave capture, Naden was arrested and sentenced to life in prison.
Luke was privileged to be able to work alongside Chuck for five years, and all Police Dogs live at home with their handler, meaning he was a part of the Warburton family.
“Chuck was a wonderful Police Dog and I loved going to work with him every day. I knew that I could trust Chuck to look after me on the road – he was there to save my skin a number of times. All Police Dogs live with their handlers at home and Chuck was no different. He loved being at home with the family and playing with the kids in his time off. He was a very relaxed dog at home and a fearsome warrior when at work, which is exactly what we look for in our Police Dogs.”
Luke first started working in the Dog Unit in 2006 and worked there until his injuries in 2016.
“Becoming a Dog Handler takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Initially I needed to pass a five day selection course, which was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. Once I passed that and was deemed suitable to progress, I completed a 12-16-week novice course where I was trained along with a new dog.”
Today Luke has returned to work three days a week and is stationed at Springwood Police Station, working in the Dog Unit as a Training Supervisor – overseeing a team of trainers and training new recruits and dogs.
“We use a lot of different training venues all over Greater Sydney so I am out and about making sure we deliver the best training to our handlers so we can support local police and the community.”
Luke’s story is really rare, due to the fact that not many active police officers are allowed to have a published book, but Luke’s story came to life when crime writer Simon Bouda agreed to work with Luke on his book,
Man’s Best Friend.
The book has been receiving fantastic reviews, and is suited to anyone who wants to learn more about the inner-workings of our local police departments as well as Luke and Chuck’s story.
Fast facts about Luke (and Chuck!)
- Luke is married to Sandra Warburton and Dad to Angus (12), Max (6) and Charlotte (5).
- Luke has a retired Dog Unit dog as a family pet – T-Bone, the English Springer Spaniel.
- Luke and T-Bone have been working with disadvantaged Greater Sydney youth to help them make good decisions.
- Chuck was the Police Dog that detained Australia’s Most Wanted Man, Malcolm Naden.
- Luke kept in touch with the ED doctor he saved, who is currently doing really well.