Snellville, GA – Gwinnett County Police Department (GCPD) K9 Eli died in the line of duty on May 23, after he suffered heat exhaustion while searching for a violent suspect.
K9 Eli and his partner, GCPD Officer Matthew Bonanno, were helping Snellville police during their search for 26-year-old Christopher Bartley, who allegedly crashed into his ex-girlfriend’s vehicle and began following her “aggressively,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.
Bartley, who also had active warrants for obstruction of a law enforcement officer and fleeing and eluding at the time of the incident, ultimately ditched his vehicle and took off on foot, Snellville Assistant Police Chief Greg Perry said.
K9 Eli and Officer Bonanno searched for Bartley in the 90-degree heat for about a half hour, but pulled out of the chase when K9 Eli began showing signs of distress due to the high temperature, WSB reported.
“At no point was our K-9 actually tracking the suspect – meaning he wasn’t following his footsteps,” GCPD spokesperson Corporal Michele Pihera told WSB. “We were just actively trying to see where [Bartley] had last been.”
The duo was heading back to their patrol vehicle when K9 Eli suddenly collapsed onto the ground and began “acting strangely,” the GCPD said in a press release, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The officers doused the ailing K9 with water in an attempt to cool him down, then Officer Bonanno rushed him to a veterinarian, WSB reported.
“K-9 Eli was conscious as they loaded him into the patrol vehicle,” Cpl. Pihera told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “Officer Bonanno transported him to a local animal hospital for emergency treatment.”
When K9 Eli stopped breathing at the veterinarian’s office, the doctors performed CPR for about 30 minutes, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
They finally pronounced the nine-year-old Belgian Malinois dead at 5 p.m.
“Our thoughts are with Officer Bonanno, his family, and the K-9 Unit as they grieve the loss of this great animal,” Cpl. Pihera told the Gwinnett Daily Post.
K9 Eli was an eight-year veteran of the GCPD, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Gwinnett County Police Department and Officer Bonanno in the loss of K9 Eli.