On Oct. 22, 2014, Officer Marshall Mirarchi and his K9, Hurricane, were at the White House. They were part of the Secret Service Special Operations Division security team that was entrusted with the safety of the White House grounds, as well as the president and his family inside.
“Security is 99 percent hanging out waiting for something to happen and 1 percent something actually happening,” Mirarchi recently told Coffee or Die. Still, they remained vigilant and ready for one of those singular moments to occur.
And when it arrived, Mirarchi and Hurricane moved into position, implemented their extensive training — and ultimately stopped a threat at the home of the President of the United States. Hurricane’s actions gained him worldwide recognition and a prestigious award from the United Kingdom.
“Hurricane sits right next to me in the truck and stares at the fence line (when he’s awake),” Mirarchi said. “It was super dark out at the time. I don’t know if he saw the guy jump over the fence or not, but he started getting all amped up, which caused me to look over to the west side.” That’s when Mirarchi spotted the intruder, who had climbed the fence and was barreling toward the White House.
“Since this is way out of our sector, I deployed out and posted on the east side,” he said. “A team on the west side deployed out on the individual. Due to some equipment and gear malfunctions, they were not able to re-deploy the canine to stop the individual.”
It was a critical moment for the Secret Service; any mishap in this duty would not only jeopardize the safety of those on the White House grounds, but it would also damage the integrity and trust in the USSS.
Mirarchi assessed the situation: there were several teammates between himself and the intruder. “It’s not like you can tell the dog to bite the fourth guy,” Mirarchi said. It was dark, and his teammates were also wearing dark clothing — precious seconds were ticking away, and a decision had to be made.
“This is what makes Hurricane so special, his ability to read situations and know what to do,” Mirarchi continued. “Although it was not a situation I would deploy him in, it was our only option at the time. I knew he would get it done if I could get him locked on the right guy. The second he got target lock, I let him go. He took off and weaved in and out of the team members in front of us and took the intruder right off his feet. It was the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen a dog do from that distance in those conditions.
“From there, they went to war.”
Mirarchi recalled a flurry of bites to the intruder’s leg, followed by the man stomping Hurricane with his free leg in a desperate attempt to escape. But Hurricane was relentless.
“He would switch to the arm, and [the intruder] would throw a fury of punches at him,” Mirarchi recalled, “and Hurricane would transition to another spot.”
Mirarchi then realized that, on top of subduing the intruder, Hurricane was also pushing the man back toward the fence. It gave the USSS officers a chance to move into a better position. When the intruder hit the fence, the man was still fighting — so the Secret Service deployed yet another dog on him.
Finally, they got him into custody.
“This same individual jumped the fence at the Treasury prior to this, and it took six officers to hold him down — you can imagine this individual’s physical abilities,” Mirarchi said. “Once we got the individual under control, I got Hurricane off and brought him back to the truck. I saw a whole new side of Hurricane after that, as trying to get him back to the truck after that was no easy task. He was pissed! When I got him back to the truck, we definitely had a moment. He had that look like, ‘Dad, did I do a good job?’
“I then saw under the lights all the blood and bruises on his legs and body. The pain tolerance on these Malinois is so incredibly high, it’s almost impossible to tell if they are hurt. My supervisor at the time, Special Agent Jonathan Stewart, immediately got my sector covered so I could get Hurricane to the ER. He ended up being okay, just banged up pretty bad.”
For the most part, Hurricane made a full recovery. Mirarchi said that he suffers some hip problems that affect his jumping, which were most likely from this engagement, but other than that, “he is in perfect health.” Hurricane is now retired.
These heroic actions have earned Hurricane the PDSA Order of Merit, and it’s the first time an American dog has been awarded the medal from the British charity. The medal has been described as the animal equivalent of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). To date, the PDSA Order of Merit has been awarded to 31 animals — 12 horses and 19 dogs. Mirarchi beamed with pride at the award: “The PDSA animal awards program is one of the oldest in the world, and in my opinion, the highest award in the world a working dog can receive.”
Mirarchi has now adopted Hurricane, and they remain a team — now outside of work. “His personality is like a human. If you’re around him for a few minutes, you forget that he’s a dog — he acts just like a person. He makes me laugh every single day,” Mirarchi said. “One of the things that was a blessing in disguise was him being able to retire early. Most dogs work right up until the end and never get to experience what it is to be a dog. All the years I worked him, I had to treat him like a working dog — and he acted like one. Now that he is retired and lives the good life, I get to see a totally different dog.”
“He didn’t know he was protecting the White House or the president — he thinks he’s protecting me. I think about it every time I look at him. In the mental state the intruder was in, he felt zero pain at the time, so it was basically a wrestling match between a 200-pound guy and a 70-pound dog,” Mirarchi said. “And Hurricane was willing to go the distance, no matter the outcome, all for me. I always wish there was some way I can repay him for that. It is part of why I love telling his story so much. And doors keep opening with opportunities — it’s great that I can keep getting his story to more and more people.”
The PDSA has been described as the primary veterinary nonprofit throughout the U.K. It was founded in 1917 and has since expanded to 48 pet hospitals; they present awards such as these for animals’ heroic actions both inside and out of military service. Extending this award to an American animal is indicative of their mission to promote acts of bravery by animals across the board.
Hurricane is in good company. Other winners of this award include police K9s who worked during the terrorist attacks in London in 2017. A horse named Keston earned the award alongside his partner, Grace: “He was also present at the Million Mask March, where a number of horses and officers were seriously injured. Keston behaved honourably throughout the incident, despite the chaos, and was a rock to the other horses.” One dog was awarded the PDSA Order of Merit for her work in helping people with disabilities.
As Hurricane’s acts of bravery have been recognized and awarded, he and Mirarchi enjoy their lives together at home.