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K-9 dies in the line of duty

Published: Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 3:49 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 3:51 p.m. CDT

PERU – A Peru Police Department K-9 officer died on Saturday after being involved in an accident that occurred while the police dog and its handler were responding to an armed robbery.

Peru Police Chief Doug Bernabei confirmed at 6:46 p.m. Saturday, officers were responding to a 9-1-1 call regarding an armed robbery that had just occurred in the Verizon Wireless store, north of Peru.

It was reported two black males had just exited the business and were headed toward a blueish-green Dodge mini-van, armed with handguns.

“Five on duty officers were responding in separate vehicles,” said Bernabei.

At 6:49 p.m., Peru K-9 Officer Art Smith and his K-9 partner, Kali, were traveling northbound on Route 251 with activated lights and sirens.

“They were approaching 36th Street, where the light had just turned red, and the light for the east and westbound traffic has just turned green,” Bernabei said.

The patrol vehicle entered the intersection and was broadsided by a westbound vehicle on 36th Street.

“The crash was so violent that parts of the passenger side doors were ripped from the vehicle; the windows exploded out and shattered; and Kali was ejected from the vehicle,” Bernabei said.

Fellow officers continued responding to the robbery scene. Bernabei said he responded to the traffic accident and immediately asked the Illinois State Police to conduct an investigation into accident.

Bernabei said Kali was in critical condition at the scene and was taken to Ancare Veterinary Hospital in LaSalle. She was pronounced dead at the hospital at 8 p.m. Saturday. Kali was a Belgian Manlinois and had been with the department almost two years. She was a full service dog who was trained in narcotics detection, searching and tracking.

Smith, who is an 11-year veteran of the department, was transferred to Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru, where he was treated and released Saturday night. Bernabei confirmed the driver of the second vehicle was not injured.

Bernabei confirmed there will be no charges filed in the accident.

An investigation into the armed robbery is ongoing and is being handled by the Peru Police Detective Division.

Bernabei said the robbery appears to be part of an organized crime group who have been conducting robberies at various cell phone stores throughout the Midwest.

“I can say this was a very terrorizing armed robbery,” he said. “It involved weapons and was a traumatic experience for those who were involved. It’s a very dangerous group of individuals.”

Bernabei said when an arrest is made, the department will seek additional charges for the involvement in a crime that led to the death of a police dog, which is a Class 3 felony.

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