K-9 police dogs serve an invaluable role in law enforcement. From tracking down suspects to using their incredible senses for finding missing persons, these dogs save lives and keep their communities safe.
So it’s heartbreaking when one of these hero dogs die, especially on the job. The deserve the honor and respect reserved for any officer who gives their life in the line of duty.
Like a K-9 officer named Harlej, who was tragically shot by a suspect, but is credited with bringing the perp to justice.
Harlej, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, was a member of Indiana’s Fishers Police Department. In November, the department got a call of a drunken driver going over the speed limit, according to IndyStar.
Three officers and Harlej tracked down the suspect in a Cadillac. When the pulled him over, he fled from the vehicle on foot. The K-9 led the chase into a dark wooded area.
But not long after Harlej ran ahead, the officers heard a gunshot. Their hearts sank as they feared for the worst.
Harlej was killed, shot in the head by the fleeing suspect. His handler, Officer Jarred Koopman, was devastated to find his old beloved partner dead on the scene.
But Harlej did not die in vain: the suspect, 19-year-old Richard D. Garrett of Indianapolis, was soon found and apprehended by the officers. They found dog bite marks on his leg, indicating that Harlej, in a final heroic act, had tracked down and slowed down the perp.
Garrett now faces eight felony charges, including for striking a law enforcement animal. He reportedly yelled expletives about the dog. He will face trial in February.
Meanwhile, the Fishers Police Department has been mourning one of their own. Harlej was their first K-9 officer to die in the line of duty.
They held a memorial service for the fallen officer. “We’re all proud of you, and we owe you a debt of gratitude that we will never be able to repay,” K-9 patrolman Kyle McFerran said at the service, according to IndyStar.
Harlej had been part of the force since he was just 14 months old. “What we didn’t know at the time is that we had selected a true hero,” patrolman Sam Ralph said.
Members of the community showed an outpouring of support, sending tributes to Harlej and donations to the department.
Thank you for your service, Harlej. You died a hero, and will be remembered for a long time.
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