Hoge's Heroes: Yoda the K9 Feels the Force, Takes Down Convicted Murderer

A Belgian Malinoise. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

When I first had the idea for this recurring column about everyday heroes, it never occurred to me that I would be writing about hero dogs. But in July, I brought you the story of Wilson the rescue canine, who helped save four children stranded in the remote Amazon jungle. Unfortunately, he paid for that effort with his life. 


Now there’s a new hero dog to talk about, and it’s a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois named Yoda working for Customs and Border Protection—and he captured an escaped murder in Pennsylvania on Thursday. Good dog!

The background: Danelo Cavalcante escaped the Chester County Prison in late August by “wedging himself between two opposing walls and propelling himself upward” and kept the entire state in fear for 13 days as he eluded a manhunt consisting of hundreds of officers.

Convicted of killing an ex-girlfriend in Chester County in April 2021 and sought in a 2017 killing in his native Brazil, Mr. Cavalcante was desperate, authorities said — and resourceful, which enabled him to stay ahead of his pursuers, sometimes by just steps, sometimes by miles. For days, he crept through Chester County’s leafy communities, dotted with farms, thick woods and cul-de-sacs, about an hour from Philadelphia.

His daring escape:

Despite intense efforts, authorities were unable to locate him until a Drug Enforcement Administration plane managed to pick up his heat signature in the forest:

Video released Saturday by the DEA shows the moment Cavalcante, 34, was spotted on Tuesday night near Prizer Road and Route 100 in South Coventry Twp.

At first, a small white spot can be seen on the video, but as the plane moves around a tree and gets a better view a bright human figure can be seen.

The plane was forced to land due to severe weather that night, but authorities surrounded Cavalcante's position and moved in to make the arrest on Wednesday morning.


But who actually apprehended the subject? It was Yoda who sniffed him out as he attempted to hide under some branches:

Cavalcante had been lying prone, likely to avoid detection, when search teams of about 20 to 25 members got close enough for him to realize they were there.

"They were able to move in very quietly. They had the element of surprise. Cavalcante did not realize he was surrounded until that had occurred," said Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Cavalcante began to crawl through heavy underbrush to try to escape, prompting the Customs and Border Patrol team to release Yoda, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, to pursue him.

"They actually gave him verbal commands. He refused the verbal commands. He [Cavalcante] attempted to crawl away," said Supervisory Deputy Robert Clark of the U.S. Marshals.

The dog subdued him in a struggle, leaving Cavalcante with a bleeding scalp wound.

He was first bitten on the forehead, then Yoda clenched his thigh and held on, Clark said. That's when Cavalcante submitted, and officers got him in handcuffs.

Had Yoda not smelled him and taken matters into his own teeth, it’s possible Cavalcante could have grabbed his gun and started firing. Who knows what tragedies the well-trained dog prevented with his actions.


Of course, as our Sister Toldjah reported, the media immediately went into handwringing mode after Cavalcante's capture because they thought a photo taken at the site was inappropriate. Luckily, Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens quickly nuked their narrative:

WATCH: Pa. State Police Official Shuts Down Media Handwringing After Capture of Danelo Cavalcante

Cavalcante’s escape and his resilience in the forest are impressive—but do not feel sorry for him. He's an illegal immigrant who was convicted of stabbing his girlfriend nearly 40 times in front of her children and was sentenced to life in prison. Let’s hope they can keep him there this time. But if not, there’s a good chance that a pooch like Yoda or Wilson will take him down. 

Yoda's even drawn fans from across the nation:

This is part of a series about everyday heroes that don’t necessarily make the front pages. It’s a chance to talk about something other than Joe’s mumblings and Hunter’s depravity.


I’m inviting readers to send me stories of people they know or who they’ve read about who have done heroic acts—large or small, physical or otherwise—that have made someone’s life better or saved them from danger. Please email me with any tips at [email protected] or DM me on Twitter. Thanks!

See also-->

Hoge's Heroes—Attorney Mom Fights All-Powerful LA Health Department Over Free Speech

Hoge’s Heroes: Hawaiian Man Travels 13 Miles on Bicycle Through Wildfire Hell to Save Grandma

Hoge's Heroes: Pregnant Driver Evacuates 37 Kids off School Bus—just Before It's Engulfed in Flames


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