September 8, 2011

USA: Bonilla, 82 and two dogs get troopers' help, take flight to NYC

CHICAGO, Illinois / The Chicago Tribune / Breaking News / September 8, 2011


















Antonio Bonilla, 82, when Indiana State Police Troopers first found him in Hobart. With
him is in plain clothes off duty Trooper Dan Avitia (left) and Master Trooper Russell
Hayes (right).  Indiana State Police photo / September 7, 2011

Three Indiana State troopers went beyond the call of duty last month when they helped an 82-year-old homeless man who was found wandering on I-65 with his dogs travel to New York City.

Officers were alerted in Aug. 19 about an elderly man walking two dogs on Interstate 65, police said. When they arrived on the scene, officers discovered Antonio Bonilla, who said he was homeless and attempting to go to New York, according to Indiana state police.

The officers removed him from the interstate and tried to locate a shelter that would take in Bonilla and his dogs. But Bonilla repeated his wishes to go to New York, even though he had no family members there, police said. The troopers cautioned him that traveling to New York with two pets would be costly, and Bonilla assured them he could pay and only needed help making the arrangements, police said.

Master Trooper Russell Hayes, Senior Trooper Dwayne Halliburton and Trooper Dan Avitia told Bonilla they would help, police said. The troopers took Bonilla shopping for clothing, grooming items, pet supplies and food for him and his dogs. While they were out shopping, the Indiana State Police dispatch worked on the travel arrangements for Bonilla and his dogs. After several calls, American Airlines said they would accept the dogs, but they needed to be cleared by a veterinarian, police said.

An arrangement was made to have the dogs examined, but the earliest appointment wasn't available until August 22, officers said.The troopers then located a motel in Merrillville that would accept pets. After the appointment, the troopers secured a cab service to take Bonilla and the dogs to the airport and he boarded his 1 p.m. flight to New York.

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