Jacksonville, FL – Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office K9 Fang was murdered in the line of duty while pursuing an armed carjacking suspect early Sunday morning, police said.
The incident began at approximately 2:30 a.m., when 17-year-old Jhamel Paskel allegedly approached two women as they were sitting in a red sedan at a 7-Eleven gas pump, WJXT reported.
Amanda Gears told police that Paskel, who was wearing a mask, then forced his way into their vehicle and held them at gunpoint.
“He pulled a gun out and told me to drive – drive normal,” Gears said, according to WJXT. “We went down a dark road away from street lights.”
Paskel ordered the women to get out of the car, then took off again, police said.
Gears’ vehicle was equipped with OnStar, so officers were able to track the carjacker’s route.
They pursued him onto Interstate 10, and OnStar disabled the vehicle’s engine near Cecil Commerce Center Parkway, WJXT reported.
As Paskel bailed out of the car and ran off on foot, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Herrera released his partner, K9 Fang, The Florida Times-Union reported.
K9 Fang bolted after him, and took Paskel down after a short chase, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office spokesman Officer Christian Hancock told the paper.
Paskel then pulled out a 9mm handgun, and fatally shot the 3-year-old German Shepherd, according to WJXT.
He fled into a wooded area, where he was ultimately apprehended by a second K9 officer and his handler.
During a Monday afternoon press conference, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Lieutenant Craig Waldrup confirmed that Paskel admitted to having murdered K9 Fang, and said he also confessed to having carjacked Gears.
He was charged with two counts of armed kidnapping, armed carjacking, and killing a police dog.
If convicted for murdering K9 Fang, Paskel faces up to five years in prison.
K9 Fang served the sheriff’s office for two years, as a “dual purpose bomb detector and patrol dog,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.
“K9 FANG played a vital [role] keeping everyone safe at special events and football games,” the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said in a tweet on Sunday. “He has captured some of the most dangerous criminals in #JAX.”
“We will miss you, FANG,” the agency said. “You are gone but will not be forgotten.”
Lt. Waldrop told WJXT that K9 Fang’s murder has been particularly difficult for his partner, Deputy Herrera, who has been with the agency for 10 years.
"The officers and their dogs are very close, so it's very upsetting to him," the lieutenant said.
The Florida Highway Patrol was among many agencies who mourned the loss of K9 Fang, The Florida Times-Union reported.
“We pray for his partner and JSO family,” the agency said. “The suspect was caught, but at a very heavy price. Thank you for your service, our four-legged hero.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Matt Herrera in the loss of K9 Fang.