Dog squad officer Luke Warburton shares his story after near fatal Nepean Hospital shooting

"In just 127 seconds my life is becoming my death - and I am an eyewitness to it."

It was January 2016, and dog squad officer Sergeant Luke Warburton had been shot in the leg with his own gun, severing a major vein, during a struggle with a man holding a doctor hostage with scissors in the emergency department at Nepean Hospital.

He thought he was going to die, and his last thoughts were for his wife Sandra and three children and how much he loved them.

"You look at things a little differently now. It was touch and go for a while, I was in intensive care for a week or so," says the police officer from his home in the Lower Mountains.

"Waking up from that was a good thing, considering I thought I might not wake up. I have a little bit of a different outlook on things. Mates of mine told me my opinion is a bit stronger than it used to be and I try to take the kids away a bit more and do a bit more stuff on holidays.

"It's not all about going to work now, it's a bit more fun."

Two year ago the police officer put pen to paper with the help of crime reporter and author Simon Bouda, and the result is Man's Best Friend, released August 6.

It tells Sgt Warburton's story from growing up in Sydney's inner west and later Kellyville, to joining the dog squad and chasing down crims with his beloved police dogs.

One of the dogs he worked with for five years is sniffing around the backyard. Explosives detector dog T-Bone, a Springer Spaniel, retired from active duty a year ago, and now calls the Warburton household home.

Sgt Luke Warburton and Chuck are reunited after the shooting

"It's good for me to have a dog in the backyard and get out and play with him and take him for walks," Sgt Warburton said.

He'd love to run and ride a motorbike but injuries sustained during the Nepean Hospital incident have meant he's been unable to return to the highly physical job within the dog squad.

"It's better than it was initially but it's still not ideal. I've got to have this splint on my leg which runs the length of my leg to my shoe and keeps my foot up, cause I've got foot drop so I can't control my ankle. And I wear this pressure stocking because my leg swells if i don't wear it. And I've got limited feeling from my knee down," he explained.

"I'm pretty lucky though, I can still walk around and get out with the kids and walk the dog. There's always people that are worse off than I am."

Sgt Warburton now trains new dogs and handlers.

"I haven't worked a dog since injury. The plan is to get back to duties one day. How long that's going to be I'm not too sure. It's certainly more realistic now than I thought it was three years ago," he said.

Whether there will ever be another dog like Chuck, his crime-busting partner for five years, who he'd left in the car when called into the emergency department will remain to be seen.

In the busy hospital, Chuck could have mistakenly bitten hospital staff trying to help the officer, as he was trained to protect his handler.

"I think at the end of the day although it would have been nice to have him in there, it was probably the right decision to leave him in the car," Sgt Warburton said.

"Chucky was a special dog there's no doubt about it. I had Chucky for a long time, we did a lot of good things together and he saved my skin a number of times as well," Sgt Warburton said.

"You get a special bond with your dog and every handler thinks their dog is the best. I'm pretty sure Chucky was one of the better ones. I had him for five, almost six years and he was a great dog. I could always rely on him, I knew he had my back and he was great with the kids."

In 2012 the pair helped capture one of Australia's most wanted fugitives, Malcolm Naden, who'd been on the run for nearly eight years, wanted on charges including murder and aggravated indecent assault.

Police had surrounded a hut in Gloucester where Naden was hiding and as he came out of the hut, Chuck pounced on the fugitive, sinking his teeth into Naden's leg.

"I was lucky enough the door he came running out of was the door I was standing at," Sgt Warburton said.

"I went in with Chucky and did what we needed to do.

"It's a proud moment as a handler."

When Sgt Warburton was shot at Nepean Hospital, Chuck would have heard the gunshots and the screaming, and was apparently "beside himself" when handlers retrieved him from the officer's car.

The pair were reunited a few weeks later, with hospital staff allowing the injured officer to be wheeled into an outdoor area so the dog could visit.

"He gets so excited, I've never seen a dog get so excited. He almost jumped up in the bed with me," Sgt Warburton recalled.

"He was licking my face, he was just so happy to see me. It was great for me to see him too.

"People think they are these big ferocious police dogs ... at the end of the day they are just a dog that wants to hang out and play."

Then five months later at the age of eight, Chuck unexpectedly died in his kennel one night. He was due to come home to the Warburton family that week.

"Dogs are funny sometimes, they are away from Dad or family and they think 'this is not much fun, I've had enough.' But not long after Chucky died his brother died as well. Whether there was a genetic thing there you don't know, but Chucky's sister China is still going strong and she's retired these days.

"That was a pretty sad time ... Everyone gets close to their family dogs but when you're working with your dog, you're at work eight hours a day and then you're at home with him for the rest of the time, you're certainly closer to your work dog than you are your pet I think."

The close bond beyond dog and handler can never be underestimated.

"I spent more time with Chucky than I did with [wife] Sandra. You get a really close bond and you get really tight with them," he said.

But it's Sgt Warburton's family who have seen him through the hard times on his long road to recovery both physically and mentally, as he also battled PTSD after the shooting.

"My family were fantastic through the whole thing. Not just Sandra and the boys but extended family as well. They get involved, especially when I was in hospital, they were looking after the kids at home and all the stuff behind the scenes and all the extended family over the last few years, they've been very supportive."

Writing the book has also helped in dealing with the PTSD.

"It's nice to get it down on paper and talk about it and get it out there," Sgt Warburton said.

"The more and more you talk about it the easier it gets."

When the Nepean Hospital incident came before the courts in October 2018, and the shooter, Michael de Guzman, was found not guilty on the grounds of mental ill health, Sgt Warburton felt let down.

"Personally it's disappointing. I thought there was enough to get a conviction outside the mental health act but the judge saw it another way," he said.

"He [the shooter] was on Ice at the time, which is a horrendous drug and obviously played some part in it."

While his life isn't what it was, Sgt Warburton would still recommend policing.

"Being a dog handler is a really rewarding job," he said. "You're hooked on the adrenaline every time you find a crook hiding somewhere."

Being in the dog squad, "It's like having a front row ticket to the best show on earth."

"I love the dog squad, I love the cops, I've been there 20 years and I still recommend it to anyone to do, it's a great job. You might get injured along the way, but it's great fun."

So much so, that when his eldest child Angus, who's 12, toys with the idea of becoming a police officer in the dog squad, his dad is supportive.

"If that eventuates that will be a proud moment," Sgt Warburton said.

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