Charleston, WV – Charleston Police Department (CPD) K9 Axel was fatally shot in the line of duty on Saturday night while trying to apprehend a fugitive wanted in connection with a stabbing.
Investigators said a warrant was issued for 50-year-old Samuel Paul Ranson after he allegedly stabbed a man at a residence located on East Point Drive on Aug. 22, WSAZ reported.
The victim suffered a deep laceration to his left bicep and his chest was slashed.
He and multiple witnesses identified Ranson as the attacker and said he was also armed with a blue gun, WSAZ reported.
An arrest warrant for malicious wounding was subsequently issued for the suspect, according to WCHS.
CPD Lieutenant Tony Hazelett said the department received a report that there was a “wanted person” in the 100-block of East Point Drive at approximately 11:10 p.m. on Aug. 27.
Ranson allegedly fled the area and ran off into a wooded area when police arrived, WCHS reported.
Officers and K9 Axel began searching the forest and were “at a very close distance” from Ranson when he suddenly opened fire on them, Lt. Hazelett said.
“A Charleston Police Department canine was deployed to apprehend the suspect,” the lieutenant said. “During the apprehension, the suspect produced a firearm. The suspect then shot and killed the police canine.”
Officers immediately returned fire, fatally wounding the gunman, WCHS reported.
Ranson was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The CPD said in a Facebook post on Sunday that K9 Axel “gave his life protecting his handler and other CPD officers while apprehending an armed fleeing felon.”
“Thank You Axel for your dedicated service and this heroic act,” the police department said. “Prayers for his handler and all of our CPD family.”
K9 Axel served alongside his human partner, CPD Officer Joshua Clendenin, WCHS reported.
The beloved K9 was just one week shy of his first anniversary with the department when he was killed, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Officer Clendenin’s wife, Hanna, said in a Facebook post that she is thankful her husband returned home safe after the shooting, but that the sight of K9 Axel’s empty kennel has been heartbreaking.
“Each shift before my husband and Axel left for work, I’d spend a few minutes with Axel and I’d always say to him, ‘Be a good boy. Mommy loves you, take care of Dad for me. Watch out for him and protect him,’” she wrote. “And last night he did just that while sacrificing his own life to do so. I owe Axel everything! He is the reason that right now I am able to hold my husband.”
Hanna said she has “never seen a stronger connection between a dog and human then what Josh and Axel shared.”
“He died protecting the person he loved most in this world, but my heart aches for all the tail wags and puppy kisses I’ll never get again. Sometimes dogs aren’t ‘just a dog.’ They are Guardian Angles. Our family will never be the same again,” she wrote. “Here’s to you K9 officer and partner Axel. You did your job and now your watch is done. Thank you for never giving up and fighting until the very end to keep Josh safe so that he could come home to us. I only wish you could be here too.”
Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin ordered that flags at all city buildings be lowered to half-staff in K9 Axel’s honor, WCHS reported.
“We are saddened by the loss of K-9 officer, Axel,” Goodwin said in a statement on Sunday, according to Metro News. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his partner, Josh, and his family – as well as all of our men and women in blue.”
RIP. West Virginia K9 Axel was murdered when he was shot and killed while apprehending a fleeing convicted felon with a warrant. STOP SHOOTING MY POLICE OFFICERS!!! #rip #hero #murdered #eow #K9Axel #CharlestonPoliceDepartment #lawenforcement #thinblueline #bluelivesmatter pic.twitter.com/jdOqunJzwT
— Protecting the Blue (@protectingblue) August 30, 2022
— Georgia Police K9 Foundation (@Gak9foundation) August 29, 2022
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Charleston Police Department and Officer Clendenin in the loss of K9 Axel.