Detroit Police Mounted Unit honoring officer

Posted at 9:18 AM, Dec 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-05 09:18:02-05

He fought for the city for decades, doing some of the most dangerous police work possible.

So when a Detroit Police sergeant suddenly died, the department found a unique way to honor this fallen hero.

Each morning at roll call at the Detroit Police Mounted Unit, it becomes clear that something is missing.

“I don’t want to cry, but I miss him five, six, 10 times a day,” said Sgt. Douglas Muston.

For every tail brushed and every hoof cleaned, these officers are thinking about one of their own.

“He excelled at any kind of police work. But to say it all, Joe always gave 100%,” said Muston.

On Aug. 14, Sgt. Joe Abdella died suddenly of a heart attack inside the barn where he worked with the horses he loved.

Abdella dedicated 21 years of his life to the Detroit Police Department, working his way up the ranks from rookie officer to homicide investigator. Abdella also spent years chasing the city’s worst criminals as part of the Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Team.

It was at Homicide where Abdella earned the nickname Capone, because if you were on the wrong side of the law -- he was not someone you ever wanted to cross.

But there was another side to tough-guy “Capone.” Abdella grew up riding horses and loved how policing on horseback allows officers to bond with the public.

“The horses were a calming factor, I think,” said DPD Mounted Unit Officer Kevin King. “People actually enjoy coming around to us. They’ll come up and they’ll talk to you, no matter who it is, what they do out there.”

That’s why after Abdella’s death, DPD decided to name the newest four-legged member of the Mounted Unit “Capone.”

“It just meant the world to us,” said Sally Abdella, Joe’s widow. “He loved the city, he loved the people, he loved what he did, he showed by example how to live life. And how to live with purpose, and have passion and live with conviction. He just showed us how to do all those things and he was a rock for all of us.”

The Mounted Unit was stitched into the Abdella family fabric from day one, with Joe and Sally’s daughters spending hours with their dad and the horses.

Now, Officer Kevin King gets to ride Capone, and watch how the horse -- like the man he was named after -- brings Detroiters together.

“He’s our guardian angel now. But we miss him. And there’s a void,” said Jackie Burke, Abdella’s sister.

Burke says knowing that there’s still a “Capone” patrolling the streets of Detroit should bring comfort to everyone.

“He’ll live on forever in our hearts, he’s left such an impact on all of us, that I know he will never ever be forgotten,” said Burke.