St. Clair Shores, MI – Controversy over the value of the life of a police K9 dog has been brewing in a small Michigan town after police shot and killed an armed suspect who had just fatally shot a police K9 in the face.
St. Clair Shores Police K9 Axe was murdered in the line of duty while tracking a suspect on Nov. 4.
The St. Clair Shores Police Department responded to the Lakeland Manor Banquet Hall at about 6:30 p.m. for a report of a man with a gun, the Detroit News reported.
There were approximately 70 people at the banquet hall attending a baby shower at the time of the incident, according to WDIV.
The armed man ignored commands from police when they arrived, and fled the scene, the Detroit News reported.
The St. Clair PD deployed K9 Axe to track and apprehend the suspect.
The suspect opened fire on K9 Axe with a handgun, and the police dog was hit, WDIV reported.
St. Clair Shores police officers returned fire and fatally shot the suspect, later identified as 29-year-old Theoddeus Gray of Detroit.
K9 Axe, a four year old German Shepherd who had been a member of the St. Clair Shores PD for two years, was transported to an emergency veterinarian where he was pronounced dead, WDIV reported.
Local activists have expressed outrage about the shooting of Gray, and said they do not feel the suspect’s life should have been taken for killing a police dog.
Detroit business owner Branden Turner told WXYZ that he didn’t believe a K9’s life should be valued at the same level as a human being’s.
“The importance was placed on the life of a K9 officer or a dog who does not share the same rights as a human being in this country,” Turner complained.
He has been selling shirts that read “F--k That Dog: Justice For Theo Gray.” They are available in a variety of colors.
Gray’s father told WXYZ that he was not consulted and had not authorized anyone to make the anti-K9 Axe shirts on behalf of his deceased son.
Turner, who is making a profit on the shirts, admitted that he didn’t know Gray.
“I made these T-shirts to give a voice to the people,” he told WXYZ.
While the publicity surrounding the offensive t-shirts has upset many law enforcement supporters and dog lovers, Turner is not the only member of the community causing controversy.
A failed Libertarian congressional candidate posted an obscene message on the local newspaper’s Facebook page that concluded with the words “I’m glad he’s dead.”
Benjamin Dryke, who won two percent of the votes for U.S. Representative for Michigan’s 36th District in November, said he strongly objected to police shooting Gray after he’d shot K9 Axe in the face, the Macomb Daily reported.
"Because people shouldn't be killed," Dryke said. "[The police] need to stop killing people. This was just a dog."
By and large, the community has supported the St. Clair Shores police and expressed sympathy for K9 Axe’s handler, St. Clair Shores Police Officer Tom Price.
Jennifer Ayers of Roseville told the Macomb Daily she supported fallen K9 Axe.
“Because the dog was doing his job, what he was police trained to do. The man who decided to run, with his gun in hand, and ignore any and all police commands, had it coming,” Ayers said. “You obviously do not run from the cops unless you're guilty of something.”
“If the dude would have just stopped what he was doing and listened to what he was told, both him and that poor dog would still be alive,” she said.
Resident of the area showed their support for the police department on this issue by lighting up their houses with blue lights on Sunday night.
"Light the Night in Blue for Axe" was such a success that True Value hardware store on Harper has had trouble keeping the shelves stocked with blue light bulbs, WJBK reported.
"It's been crazy the phones are ringing off the hook non-stop the last three days," True Value’s manager, Paul Magro, told WJBK.
The local Citgo gas station was selling K9 Axe car decals to help raise money for the police department to replace their police dog, WJBK reported.
A memorial service for K9 Axe will be held on Wednesday at Greek Assumption Church in St. Clair.
The Macomb County Sheriff’s Office was continuing to investigate the officer-involved shooting of Gray, and the murder of K9 Axe.