Wake County Sheriff’s K9 accidentally killed in line of duty by Knightdale officer, police say

K9 Santos
K9 Santos(WNCN/Wake County Sheriff's Office)
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 10:55 AM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - A K9 with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office was accidentally shot and killed in the line of duty by a Knightdale police officer, according to the Knightdale Police Department.

K9 Santos and his handler were assisting Knightdale police near North Smithfield Road around 12:30 a.m., the Wake County Sheriff’s Office said.

Knightdale Police Chief Lawrence Capps said the incident stemmed from a traffic stop that officers conducted near the Carrington Woods subdivision. The K9 handler arrived on scene and began a track of the suspect. Chief Capps said a passenger of the suspect vehicle fled on foot into a nearby wooded area.

A Knightdale officer unintentionally fired their weapon, hitting the deputy’s K9, according to police.

Santos was rushed to the emergency clinic at N.C. State University’s Veterinary Hospital, where he died.

The sheriff’s office said Santos was “skilled in tracking and protecting his handler with a fierce determination.”

“He gave his life to ensure the safety of our deputies and the residents of Wake County,” said the sheriff’s office in a news release. “We thank him for his loyalty and service.”

Santos joined the sheriff’s office in 2016, making him the longest serving K9, according to the sheriff’s office.

“We are truly heartbroken over this tragedy,” said Chief Capps. “All law enforcement officers understand the strong and undeniably special bond that exists between handlers and their K9 partners. The involved officer is very distraught, so I can only imagine the deep swell of grief our friends in the sheriff’s office must be feeling. We extended our sincerest apologies and deepest sympathies.”

Chief Capps said the department has been in constant communication with command staff at the Wake County Sheriff’s Office since the incident. Police launched an investigation into the officer’s actions.

The investigation is ongoing and no other information was released.