First Responders

Requiem for Hercules, Atlanta PD’s 18-Year-Old Police Horse

August 30, 2022Joshua Skovlund
Hercules would roll in the mud or dirt every night. So, Officer Juan Restrepo knew he'd have to give his partner a bath at the department's stable before they went out on patrol. Atlanta Police Department photo.

Hercules would roll in the mud or dirt every night. So, Officer Juan Restrepo knew he'd have to give his partner a bath at the department's stable before they went out on patrol. Atlanta Police Department photo.

The Atlanta Police Department’s Mounted Patrol Unit is mourning the loss of their gentle giant, Hercules.

Eighteen hands high — about 2 yards tall from the base of the neck to the ground — the Percheron and thoroughbred cross often stopped traffic in the Georgia metropolis because people wanted to stop and take photos of the towering horse.

“You'd want everyone to like the police the way they liked Hercules,” the horse’s mounted officer, Juan Restrepo, told Coffee or Die Magazine. “Just that positive relationship that the community had with him was amazing.”

Hercules was 18 and had been suffering from cancer. He’d served the mounted patrol for 16 years after Louisiana State Penitentiary inmates in Angola saddle broke him.

15868.jpg

Officer Juan Restrepo and Hercules, the police horse, were great at being ice breakers between the public and the Atlanta Police Department. Atlanta Police Department photo.

On Friday, Aug. 26, Hercules began showing symptoms of colic, a blockage in the gut often caused by dry or coarse feed. But as his lunchtime approached, the horse stopped eating and wanted to lie down on his side.

Mounted Patrol Unit Officer Abraham Perez and Kelly Robison, the unit’s stable master, took Hercules to the University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Athens. Staffers there discovered a terminal tumor was causing the colic.

Surgery to remedy the blockage would leave Hercules in terrible pain, so police officials decided to put him down.

b17f8a75-b364-43a6-a5ec-bd99578e2b71.jpg

One of Atlanta police officers Juan Restrepo and Hercules' favorite rides was a stroll through Piedmont Park and into Midtown. Atlanta Police Department photo.

“This almost felt like the closest relative I've had pass,” Restrepo told Coffee or Die. “It just feels empty. I look at his stall, and he's not there. You know, all weekend, all I was doing was going through our pictures or videos that we took together and just the goofy things we did together.”

Restrepo recalled Hercules greeting him every morning before duty covered in mud or painted orange with Georgia clay.

Before they rode out, he had to turn his brown horse white again.

Restrepo had spent four years working on Atlanta’s crime suppression crew before he met Hercules, his partner for the next four years on the force.

horse

Hercules served the Atlanta Police Department's Mounted Patrol Unit for 16 years. Atlanta Police Department photo.

Hercules was the kind of horse who was easily spooked. And Restrepo had no previous equestrian experience before he hooked up with Hercules. But they figured it all out together.

“So our first almost six months to a year was a challenge because it was a lot of him jumping at everything and me having to kind of wrestle with him to get him through a lot of that stuff, things that he was scared of,” Restrepo said. “But you know, with time, he started getting better.”

Their favorite patrol took them through Piedmont Park into bustling Midtown. It was the perfect route for meeting people.

“They can see, ‘Oh, wow, this police officer is just like us. He's a normal person. He can crack jokes on his horse,’ and it just really opens the door to having a relationship with the community,” Restrepo said.

Read Next: When a Cleveland Police Sergeant Went Down, This Mom Stepped Up

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis that followed the death of George Floyd. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he earned his CrossFit Level 1 certificate and worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. he went on to work in paramedicine for more than five years, much of that time in the North Minneapolis area, before transitioning to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion, where he publishes poetry focused on his life experiences.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Military
‘Butter Butter Jam!’: Troops Loved, and Hated, the M249 SAW

For nearly 50 years, the SAW has played a major role in America’s wars. Now it’s being replaced by new weapons.

February 8, 2023Mac Caltrider
Coffee Or Die Photo
Military
Space Force Vows ‘Above and Beyond’ Cleanup of Maui Spill

Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, the commander of the U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, said a team will t...

February 8, 2023Associated Press
Coffee Or Die Photo
Military
Navy Releases First Photos of Chinese Balloon Recovery

In the newest images released by the Navy on Tuesday, sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022. Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who oppose a COVID-19 vaccination requirement on religious grounds want a federal appeals court to keep alive their legal fight against the Biden administration. Congress voted to end the requirement in December 2022, but vaccine opponents note that commanders can still make decisions on how and whether to deploy unvaccinated troops, under a memo signed last month by Austin. AP photo by Susan Walsh, File.
Military
Vaccine Litigation Lingers After Lifting of Military Mandate

Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who refuse to be vaccinated for religious...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Armed Forces Service Medal
Military
Who Earns the Armed Forces Service Medal?

The Department of Defense honors heroism in combat in many ways, but there is also an award — the Ar...

February 7, 2023Noelle Wiehe
Soldiers carry the coffin of Eduard Strauss, a Ukrainian serviceman who died in combat on Jan. 17 in Bakhmut, during a farewell ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. AP photo by Daniel Cole.
Intel
Russian Forces Keep Up Pressue As Ukraine Anniversary Nears

Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied down with attacks in the eastern Donbas region as M...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Chinese spy balloon
Military
Blown to Bits! Chinese Spy Balloon Blasted, Plummets Into Sea

The US Air Force downed the Chinese balloon that's been soaring over the US.

February 4, 2023Carl Prine
germany, european union, ukraine gas reserves
Intel
Ukraine Wants To Store Europe’s Strategic Gas Reserves

Ukraine maintains 12 underground gas storage facilities with a total capacity of about 31 billion cu...

February 3, 2023Nolan Peterson
  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved