DULUTH, MN– On February 25th, Duluth Police Department K9 Luna was killed in the line of duty after being shot while trying to apprehend a gunman.
According to reports, the incident began when officers responded to a “physical domestic” incident on the 2300 block of West Fourth Street around 8:30 p.m.
When officers arrived on scene, they discovered the male suspect, who refused to surrender, had felony warrants for his arrest.
Police said K9 Luna was sent in to apprehend the suspect, at which point, the suspect fired gunshots, which hit Luna. Officers returned fire, then set up a perimeter to contain the scene, according to the Duluth Police Department, ABC5 reported.
Police said Luna was taken to an emergency veterinary clinic, but unfortunately did not survive her injuries.
Losing any dog is never easy. Losing a K9 while they are protecting the public and their officers is worse. Sending prayers to K9 Luna’s handler and the Duluth Police Department this morning after K9 Luna was shot and killed during a domestic call last night. Gone too soon. #K9 pic.twitter.com/b6JaNcYh6I
— Kate Van Daele (@KateVanDaele) February 26, 2021
No officers were hurt in the incident, police said.
Duluth police department reported on Twitter at the time:
“The suspect continues to be dangerous, armed and uncooperative,”
According to KTTC, the standoff lasted for 20 hours before the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension confirmed the gunman had been found dead inside the home.
The suspect has now been identified as 37-year-old David Joseph Wayne Conwell, the Duluth News Tribune reported.
The Officer Down Memorial Page reported that K9 Luna was a three-year-old Dutch Shepherd who served the DPD for two years.
Her handler was DPD Officer Aaron Haller.
In 2019, Officer Haller told the paper:
“She’s been a great dog,”
He went on to say:
“At home, she’s very capable of turning the switch off. She’s very good with the kids and wife — she’s a lap dog basically. But then at work she’s totally different.”
Sadly, this is not the first K9 that Officer Haller has lost in the line of duty. On January 13, 2019 Officer Haller’s former dog K9 Haas was shot and killed in the line of duty by another barricaded domestic violence suspect.
🚨 K9 END OF WATCH 🚨 K9 Haas with the Duluth Police Department tragically passed away today. Haas was shot and killed in the line of duty protecting his best friend & partner on a domestic violence call.https://t.co/DxXA9f5lL1 pic.twitter.com/zOvpYRsqQa
— K9s of Valor (@k9sofvalor) January 14, 2019
When speaking about K9 Luna’s death Champaigne said:
“She’s beauty, and snuggles, and smart, and fierce, all at the same time. She was an amazing dog,”
“We are all very much grieving.”
Knowing how hard this must be on Officer Haller and his family, Champaigne said:
“He and his family and his department are going through this a second time in just over two years. Again, we just ask for thoughts and prayers, and just rally together to support our police,”
Officers in St. Paul are also sharing the grief. St. Paul Police K9 Unit Commander Paul Ford said:
“It hits home for us, especially because that officer and that K9 came through our K9 school a couple of years ago, so we have that relationship. And we’ve had Duluth officers in our school since then, so it is personal for us,”
“It’s like losing one of our own family. It’s a good reminder, that, it didn’t happen here, but it can happen anywhere. It can happen to any one of our K9 handlers and their K9 partner as well.”
— K9Apollo (@DPDK9Apollo) February 27, 2021
USSA News reported that there are 18 K9s serving as part of St. Paul’s unit. It’s in part because they’re so versatile. They can track and locate suspects, individuals, evidence and narcotics, oftentimes, quicker than a person can. And the K9s protect their handler just as much as they protect the community.
“They can do a lot of things that will make us safer. But they’re putting themselves at risk, and the community should understand that,”
Our sincerest condolences are with Officer Haller, his family, and the entire DPD.
On February 23rd, we reported on a K9 officer who was in critical condition after being shot three times. Here is that complete story.
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KERNERSVILLE, NC – Kernersville K-9 Police Officer Sean Houle remains in critical condition after suffering three gunshot wounds to the face, hand, and arm after struggling with a suspect.
According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the shooting occurred at approximately 3:30 AM at an apartment complex on Sunday, February 21 when Officer Houle was “returning a subject to his residence after release from custody.”
At that time, Officer Houle encountered Quinton Donnell Blocker, 37, for the second time in 24 hours.
Via @k9sofvalor Please continue to pray for Officer S. Houle of the Kernersville Police Department. He is still fighting hard, and is in critical condition in the ICU after being shot three times yesterday morning. pic.twitter.com/f4PPuzPyEY
— ALPHA PRO (@DTMsport) February 22, 2021
Earlier, Blocker had run away from Houle when Houle attempted a traffic stop.
At the apartments, according to WFMY News, there was a struggle between Blocker and Houle.
Blocker somehow seized Houle’s service weapon and shot Houle in the face, arm, and hand.
Specific details about the circumstances of the struggle are unavailable at this time.
Houle was able to call dispatch for assistance, and he was transported in critical condition to a nearby hospital.
Blocker fled the scene.
What followed was a cooperative effort among multiple law enforcement agencies and the local community, that resulted in the apprehension of Blocker at approximately 9:45 AM Sunday.
A reverse 911 call was issued to warn the community of Blocker’s presence.
Multiple agencies came together, including the Kernersville Police Department, the Winston-Salem Police Department, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department, the Forsyth County EMS, the Lewisville Fire Department, and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
Court documents reveal Quinton Blocker got ahold of the officer’s gun and shot him with it. https://t.co/FlzUSw5SFh
— WFMY News 2 (@WFMY) February 23, 2021
A spokesman for the Kernersville Police Department praised the collaboration in a press conference, saying:
“Everybody … came together under one umbrella to essentially knock out a home run.
“It was no one person that was the successor in all this. It was all of us together.”
Nearby residents responded to calls for information on social media from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s department and the Kernersville Police Department.
One sharp-eyed local spotted a man matching Blocker’s description and notified police.
Blocker was then taken into custody “without incident.”
Kernersville PD lauded the local community for its efforts and support in helping to apprehend the suspect and in their concern for Officer Houle.
A Kernersville PD spokesman said:
“The strength, and the support that we receive from our community, all the blessings and the people calling us and making comments on Facebook, that means a lot to us in this day and time….
“We feel it. And without that, we… couldn’t do our job positively, or at least with somewhat of a smile.
— cityofwspolice (@cityofwspolice) February 21, 2021
“A happy employee works a lot harder than a disgruntled one, so the community having our back is a tremendous success.”
Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. added to the praise, stating:
“It is because [of] the community effort that we were able to successfully apprehend the suspect responsible for the senseless shooting of the Kernersville Police Department officer this morning.”
“It was a collaborative effort between first responders and our community.
“We could not have done it without our community providing information to our RTIC and allowing access to their security camera footage via the Camera Sharing Program.”
Blocker has been charged with first-degree attempted murder, felony assault on a law enforcement officer with a firearm, and possession of firearm by a felon.
According to the Winston-Salem Journal, Blocker broke into six motor vehicles in 2015 and was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle.
He served just over two years in prison and was released in July 2020.
WFMY News reports that Blocker is currently being held in the Forsyth County Detention Center under a $1 million secured bond.
According to WXII News, Officer Houle is described by people close to him as “a go-getter, very likable, and a person who always had a smile on his face.”
A Facebook post on the Sheriff Deputies page characterizes him as “a good man, a husband, a father.”
Everyone, please help me and say a prayer for this young man. His name is Officer Sean Houle and he is a K-9 Handler for…
In a Facebook call for prayers, Shoreline Community Church reports that Houle is “scheduled for a very long surgery” Wednesday, February 24.
We at Law Enforcement Today join with Officer Houle’s community in lifting him up in prayers for a successful surgery and a speedy, uneventful recovery.
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Author: K. Winters