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Hero Down: Kent County Sheriff’s K9 Axel Suffers Medical Emergency While Tracking Armed Suspect

Sparta, MI – Kent County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) K9 Axel died in the line of duty on Aug. 28 after suffering a medical emergency while tracking an armed suspect.

The incident began at approximately 12:20 p.m., when deputies received a report of a burglary-in-progress in the 8700-block of Glen Park Court Northwest, MLive reported.

Deputies were advised the suspect was potentially armed.

The suspect was inside a vehicle when deputies arrived at the scene, so they tried to initiate a traffic stop, MLive reported.

The suspect then bailed out of the vehicle and took off on foot into the woods, police said.

K9 Axel, a three-year-old German shepherd, responded to the scene with his partner, KCSO Deputy Krystal Stuart, to track the fleeing suspect, MLive reported.

Shortly after the track began, K9 Axel suffered a medical emergency.

He was rushed to Animal Emergency Hospital on Plainfield Avenue, where he succumbed to his condition.

K9 Axel’s exact cause of death was not released.

“The entire Kent County Sheriff’s Office is heartbroken,” Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young told MLive in the wake of the young K9’s death. “A K9 is a partner to their handler and an incredibly special member of our KCSO family. We will forever be grateful for Axel’s service to the residents of Kent County.”

K9 Axel, who was trained in explosive detection, joined the KCSO in May of 2019 and was teamed up with Deputy Stuart, MLive reported.

The team was assigned to the sheriff’s office’s Community Services Unit.

Deputy Stuart said K9 Axel had a “quirky personality” and “loved to show off,” WOOD reported.

He was also fantastic at his job.

“He was a tracking machine. If there was somebody out there, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would find him,” Deputy Stuart said.

Tracking suspects was just part of the duo’s duties, WOOD reported.

“It’s not just that we’re tracking bad guys or suspects,” Deputy Stuart noted. “We track for missing children and vulnerable adults. We use these dogs on so many different levels.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Stuart in the loss of K9 Axel.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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