Off-duty cop finds missing man by following his dog’s paw prints

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An off-duty New Jersey cop on a hunting trip located a missing man who had crashed his vehicle in the woods – thanks to the 78-year-old’s dog, whose paw prints led right to him, police said.

Manchester police launched a search after Heidi Sarno notified them about 8 p.m. Nov. 27 that her father, Fred Rapp, was missing, cops said in a report about the nine-hour search.

She provided them with information about Rapp’s vehicle, cell phone and medical condition.

Police used GPS to try and hone in on the missing man’s location, but it continued to change along State Highway 37 in the Toms River and Berkeley Township areas, police said.

The search party used the department’s Humvee, drone and newly acquired all-terrain vehicle – but came up empty.

Finally, Rapp answered a call made by Sgt. Theodore Cooke, who had been trying to get a hold of him for several hours. The missing man told Cooke that he had crashed and didn’t know where he was.

Moments later, he told the sergeant that someone had shown up and handed his phone over to the man, who happened to be off-duty Sgt. Charles Brooks.

He had been hunting nearby when he saw a dog — later determined to be Rapp’s pooch Petie – alone on a trail.

Brooks assumed the dog had wandered from its owner and decided to try and reunite them – and followed his paw prints for several hundred yards, ultimately leading him to Rapp in the 251-acre Crossley Preserve site.

The sergeant provided information to his dispatch about their location, which was inaccessible to vehicles.

Brooks then escorted Rapp to an open area where he was transported by a police vehicle to Bone Hill Road, where he was treated by Manchester First Aid.

Rapp was later transported to the Community Medical Center for evaluation and treatment.

“This situation highlights the fact that a police officer is a police officer 24/7,” Manchester Police Chief Lisa Parker said in a statement.

“We are truly fortunate that Sgt. Brooks was in the right place at the right time because without his help there is no telling how this story would have ended,” she added.

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