A citizen was walking around downtown Houston, Texas, when something stopped them in their tracks. There, on the road, was a police officer lying face down with his horse. However, this passerby had no idea just how heartbreaking their story was.
Law enforcement agencies have used horses for hundreds of years. And while mounted patrol units are one of the police department’s oldest tools, they’re still also one of the most effective. That’s because officers on horseback have a unique advantage to their peers.
On a horse, cops have extra height, enabling them to see further than if they were on foot. This is particularly handy in crowded areas, where it’s also easy for members of the public to see officers. Furthermore, cops can use horses to patrol places where police cars wouldn’t be suitable – like parks and nature reserves.
However, in the 20th century, police forces in the U.S. began to disband their mounted units. “Look at the situations they’re used for,” criminologist Mitchel Roth explained to KPCC in 2014. “How often do you have riots? If you’re going to keep a mounted police unit for riots, you might use them once a year.”
But in 1984 Houston Police Department bucked this trend and re-established their mounted patrol unit. According to the department’s website, one mounted officer is as effective as around ten on the ground. As a result, they valued their horses and the cops who rode them.
In turn, mounted officers and their horses have a strong bond. That’s because they have to rely on each other – often in the most heated situations. As a result, some say the relationship is akin to that which cops in the K-9 unit have with their dogs.
Talking to TODAY in 2015, Keese Smith, spokesman for the Houston Police Department revealed, “You undergo a lot of training as a [mounted police] officer. You work with those horses on a daily basis. Those horses undergo a lot of training before they’re put on the street, so there would be a bond. Those horses are those officers’ partners.”
One person who perfectly understood this bond was Officer D. Herrejon. He and his six-year-old horse Charlotte were the closest of colleagues. Together, they managed to keep the streets of Houston safe from crime.
Though relatively young, Charlotte had a wealth of experience as a police horse. In fact, she came into law enforcement so early that no one had even ridden her before, and by 2015 she had been working with the mounted patrol unit for four years.
However, despite her experience, things could still spook Charlotte – which is exactly what happened one day in December of that year. She and Herrejon had been patrolling downtown Houston when the horse heard a noise.
The noise panicked Charlotte, causing her to act erratically. “The horse got spooked by something from behind,” police spokesperson Smith informed People in 2015. “And when she spun around, she actually struck a cement truck.”
In the mayhem, Charlotte threw Herrejon from her back. Consequently, he was rushed to hospital as a precaution so that he could get checked out. Thankfully, though, doctors later confirmed he had no major injuries.
But, sadly, the same could not be said for Charlotte. In the accident, the horse had sustained a broken leg. As a result, veterinary staff took the hard decision to put the brave animal to rest at the accident scene.
In Herrejon’s absence, his partner decided he would have to step up to the plate. So, Officer Ronald Curry laid down on his front beside the horse. From there, he tried to comfort the animal by covering her face as she took her dying breaths.
The cop’s act of compassion touched one onlooker so much; as they decided to take photograph the sad scene. Later, the stranger shared the haunting image with the Animal Justice League. Moreover, the Houston-based animal rescue consequently decided to share the picture with its near 9,000 Facebook followers.
“We admire the heart and strength of this officer,” the post read. “When you lose an animal, to be with them during their last breath is a heartbreaking and tough thing to do. Our hearts go out to both officers and the Houston Police Department family. RIP Charlotte.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for the tear-jerking image to go viral, and it has since attracted an impressive 28,000 reactions. Furthermore, Officer Curry found himself the subject of much praise.
“Thank you, Officer, for loving and staying with your partner,” one comment read. “Our police officers are incredibly honorable people, always!” Meanwhile, another user added, “This story brought me to tears for the horse and his rider. The officer’s attempts at comforting his fallen companion made me know there’s heartfelt caring in this world of troubles.”