Jonesboro, AR – Jonesboro Police Department (JPD) K9 Gabo died on Thursday, after struggling to recover from an undisclosed medical condition.
The eight-year-old German shepherd was imported from Hungary when he was approximately one year old, and worked alongside his handler, Jonesboro Police Investigator Erik Johnson, for his entire career, the JPD said in a press release on Thursday.
The duo, which the JPD described as “incredible,” specialized in patrol, narcotics detection, building search, tracking, suspect apprehension, and handler protection.
“Most notably, Gabo assisted in a SWAT callout on December 11, 2018 where he was shot five times at point-blank range,” the JPD said.
K9 Gabo and Investigator Johnson responded to the area after police received a report that a 56-year-old woman had shot a maintenance worker at an apartment complex multiple times, according to Inside Edition.
After five hours of negotiation attempts, the gut-wrenching decision was made to send K9 Gabo in to apprehend her, Inside Edition reported.
“Gabo was the only dog at the time that had a vest,” Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliot somberly explained.
Investigator Johnson said that it was devastating to know that sending his beloved K9 partner into the potentially deadly situation was the best way to ensure that their fellow officers would be able to go home to their families that night.
“I told him I was sorry for what was going to happen. Told him I loved him,” Investigator Johnson said, breaking down into tears. “I had one of the other handlers call the vet, because I knew in my heart what was going to happen.”
As anticipated, the shooter opened fire on the officers, hitting K9 Gabo five times.
Police returned fire, killing her.
K9 Gabo was rushed into surgery. Afterwards, Investigator Johnson climbed into his kennel and remained by his side all night.
“I wasn’t leaving my partner,” he told Inside Edition.
Thanks to a bullet- and stab-proof vest donated to him by Vested Interest in K9s, the round that would have otherwise been fatal was stopped, and K9 Gabo survived the attack.
Just two months after the shooting, he was back at work alongside Investigator Johnson.
The beloved K9 “didn’t skip a beat,” the JPD noted.
K9 Gabo received the Medal of Valor for his courageous service during the 2018 shooting.
The partners were named as the Crimestoppers Persons of the Year in 2019, and were also the recipients of the Officer of the Year award the same year.
“JPD’s K9 Unit is dear to all of our hearts. When they hurt, we hurt,” the JPD said. “We will never be able to express how appreciative we are for Gabo, Erik, and the entire K9 Unit. Their work does not go unnoticed and we grieve with Erik at the loss of his irreplaceable partner.”
“Rest easy, Gabo. We’ll take it from here,” the department wrote.
A memorial service honoring K9 Gabo’s “life, dedication, and selfless service” will be held on Monday, according to the JPD.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Jonesboro Police Department and Investigator Johnson in the loss of K9 Gabo.