HANCOCK COUNTY -- A year ago today in an incident that made headlines nationwide, a Hancock County deputy was nearly killed during a roadside stop in Pearlington when three men ambushed him.
Had it not been for a newly installed system that popped open his patrol car's doors and released his canine partner, Todd Frazier might not be alive today.
It appeared the attackers intended to kill Frazier as they fought for his gun and tried to carry him off the road, Chief Investigator Glenn Grannan said at the time.
"It seems like they were trying to take him back to the woods," Grannan said when he surveyed the area early Tuesday. "They were going to dispose of him. They were going to finish him."
The attack reportedly occurred about 10 p.m. on a deserted stretch of U.S. 90 about 4 miles east of the Louisiana line. Frazier had stopped to check on a driver sitting alone in a car at a rest stop.
Authorities described the vehicle as a 1999 to 2004 blue Lincoln Town Car with a black vinyl top and large chrome rims. It had no license plate.
Unaware two other men were concealed in the woods, Frazier walked up to the driver and began speaking to him. The other men emerged, drawing the deputy's attention away from the driver, who got out and started attacking.
The other two joined in, using a sharp object to deliver a 2.5-inch cut to Frazier's forehead, officials said.
Frazier's K-9 partner, a Belgian malinois named Lucas, was in the rear seat of the patrol car as the men wrestled for the deputy's gun and began dragging him toward the woods.
Frazier managed to reach for a remote device on his belt to open his car doors, unleashing the four-legged force that sprinted into action, biting at least two assailants and prompting them to drive away.
The remote door-opening system had been installed just two weeks prior. It was one of only two the sheriff's office had at the time.
Frazier recovered from his wounds. He retired from the sheriff's office shortly after the attack. It's unclear if the incident had any influence on his decision. Frazier declined to be interviewed for this story.
Sheriff Ricky Adam suspects the attack may have played some part in Frazier's decision to leave, adding no one can hold it against him. More likely, the sheriff said, Frazier chose to retire to pursue his passion as a full-time dog trainer.
The deputy, who was on the force about three years, served as the department's K-9 trainer. Lucas was Frazier's personal pet, which he trained as a law enforcement dog. Both officers, human and canine, retired together.
The assailants have never been caught or even identified. Sheriff's officials believe the men were from Louisiana.
"It's still an open case, but we have no leads," Adam said. "We chased leads for weeks, from Biloxi to New Orleans East. Cars would match the description, people would call in, but nothing panned out."
The lack of street chatter along the Coast is what led the sheriff to suspect the assailants were not from the area.
"There's a train of thought out there that it's somebody from New Orleans East," he said. "We've put enough pressure on locals to talk and tried to make deals. Some of the crooks have really hustled to try to find out, and nothing's come out of it."
Several factors have hindered the investigation, the most significant being the lack of equipment available to the sheriff's office.
Only three vehicles in the sheriff's fleet are equipped with dashboard camera systems, and all are reserved for road deputies, who conduct DUI stops that can turn dangerous quickly.
"Dash cameras would've really made a big difference," Adam said.
At the time of the attack, budget cuts had put purchase of body cameras out of reach for Hancock County.
However, since the attack on Frazier, county supervisors have begun to work with the sheriff on his equipment needs, Adam said.
He said his deputies are field testing a highly advanced body-camera system he hopes to buy. The $300,000 price tag might seem steep until one learns what it's capable of.
Each camera is securely fitted into a Kevlar vest, preventing it from falling or becoming ripped off if the deputy is engaged in a scuffle. The vests are equipped with GPS locators that show deputies' precise whereabouts.
And the feature perhaps most relevant to the Frazier incident is an orientation sensor that sends a department-wide alert if the vest remains in a horizontal position for more than a few seconds -- indicating an officer may be down.
Since the attack, the sheriff also has equipped all K-9 vehicles with the remote system that saved Frazier's life, and built a large dog shelter at the station to house the canines.