Colombian Gang Put A $70,000 Bounty On A Drug-Sniffing Dog

July 30, 2018 | No Comments » | Topics: Story

Her talent for sniffing out drugs has led to the capture of at least 245 people and the seizure of 9 tons of cocaine from the powerful Urabeños gang in Colombia.

But now Sombra, a 6-year-old German shepherd who is incredibly popular among children and adults alike, is in danger.

The Urabeños mafia has put a bounty of 200 million pesos ($70,000) on her head, according to Colombian police, so the dog had to be moved to Bogota’s El Dorado airport over fears for her safety.

“The fact they want to hurt Sombra and offer such a high reward for her capture or death shows the impact she’s had on their profits,” a police spokesperson told the Telegraph.

Sombra came to Colombian law enforcement from a kennel in Antioquia, the region of the country that’s home to Medellín, the springboard for Colombia’s fearsome cartels of the 1980s and 1990s. Outfitted in a neon-yellow vest, the dog is tasked with thrusting her trained snout into luggage and packages in Colombia’s ports and airports along the country’s Gulf Coast.

RCN Radio reports her first major bust was in March 2016, when Sombra nosed her way toward a container of banana boxes that secretly held 2,958 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride. The shipment was on its way to Belgium.

In May 2017, Sombra discovered another shipment heading to Belgium containing 1.1 tons of cocaine. Last June she led police to an even larger find – 5.3 tons of cocaine, the BBC reported. Later she discovered 4 more tons secreted in an auto parts shipment.

In total, her busts have resulted in 245 arrests, Colonel Carlos Fernando Villareal told RCN Radio. Sombra’s efforts for law enforcement have twice earned her the Wilson Quintero medal, an honor awarded for critical contributions to the fight against drug trafficking.

Sombra’s accomplishments have made her the cuddly face of Colombia’s anti-drug effort.

She’s been featured on local television. In airports, the dog is asked to pose for selfies with admirers. And the narcotics police regularly post about her accomplishments on Twitter. This month, police used Sombra to specifically call out the Urabeños’s alleged notorious chief, a former paramilitary guerrilla turned drug trafficker named Dairo Antonio Úsuga. In Colombia, he’s known as “Otoniel.”

“In the last three years she’s become the torment of ‘Otoniel,'” a recent tweet stated.

The dog can handle the high profile, her owners have said.

“Sombra is a very friendly, calm canine, and for that reason, she has no problem approaching children or people who want to say hello to her,” Oscar Favian Solarte, head of the anti-narcotics division, told El Tiempo. “She’s playful, and in fact that is part of the development of her job. Not only to look for caches of illicit drugs but also, after her work is done, to de-stress, so to speak.”

But all that attention has put Sombra in the Urabeños’s crosshairs.

Originally a paramilitary outfit, one of the many armed groups trading bullets in Colombia’s long national struggle, the Urabeños are now the country’s largest criminal organization and control much of the drug trade, according to InSight Crime. Consolidating power by taking on all rivals, the group’s power base spreads along Colombia’s northwest coast. According to InSight, the group pulls money from various criminal activities, such as extortion, illegal mining, and smuggling.

Otoniel remains at large and in control of the vast organization.

In response to the bounty on Sombra’s life, General Jorge Nieto, head of the national police, has ordered the dog transferred to Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport, outside of the Urabeños’s territory on the coast. According to the Telegraph, additional officers will now accompany Sombra on her rounds.