Harker Heights Police Officer Christopher Villella and his K-9 partner Era typically train 10 hours a week.

Their training was recognized June 7, as Villella and Era were one of about 30 teams participating in the second annual Jeremy Triche K-9 Narcotics Competition.

Triche was a Saint Johns Parish Louisiana Sheriff’s Office deputy who was killed in the line of duty in August 2012.

“He was a friend of mine,” Villella said. “We were in school several years together and shared a lot of similar backgrounds.”

Since Triche’s passing, an annual competition was started to keep his memory going, Villella said.

The first year raised funds for Triche’s family, who now allow the foundation to use funds to continue the annual competition, Villella said.

Era and Villella traveled to LaPlace, La., both last year and this year to participate.

“Basically you have 3 minutes to find as many narcotics sites as you can,” Villella said. “It’s the fastest 3 minutes ever.”

The gymnasium-sized room has boats, chairs, desks, typewriters or anything the drugs can be found in, he said.

Era, a 10-year-old Belgian Malinois, placed eighth overall in the competition.

“The number of finds I never remember, because you go in there and there’s so many things by the end of it I don’t know what we alerted on and what we didn’t,” Villella said.

Era made the fastest find, and along with another handler from a different Texas law enforcement department, they placed second team overall and state champion from Texas.

Villella said the competition differs from the typical National Narcotics Dog Detector Association’s competitions.

“This one’s a little bit more close to heart,” he said. “It means a lot to the family and those who organize it, and they know with mine and Jeremy’s friendship, I wouldn’t have been anywhere else.”

Villella, who’s been with the Harker Heights Police Department for about nine years and training with Era for eight, said he absolutely plans to go back next year and each year his supervisors allow him.

Contact Rachael Riley at rriley@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7553

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