A Paulding deputy shot and killed a dog as it bit his leg during a foot pursuit of a suspect — only to discover he killed a sheriff’s K-9 officer which had gotten loose and mistook him for the suspect.
K-9 Verro was killed in the “chaotic scene” Friday afternoon, July 19, which unfolded after “no deputies were aware K-9 Verro was out of his vehicle” as they pursued a suspect on foot, said Sgt. Ashley Henson of the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office.
“It is with a very heavy heart that we announce the passing of one of our law enforcement canines, K-9 Verro,” Henson said. “This has been a devastating incident that has shaken our office to its core.”
Henson said on Friday July 19, at around noon deputies responded to a domestic dispute report off Old Cartersville Road northeast of Dallas in the Saddlebrook Farms subdivision at 14 Trotters Way.
“Prior to their arrival, the male suspect from the domestic dispute left the scene on foot. When responding deputies arrived in the area, they located a male matching the suspect’s description in a silver passenger car still inside the neighborhood,” Henson said.
“When they initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle, the passenger, who was later confirmed to be the suspect from the domestic dispute, ran from them.”
He said more deputies responded to the scene as the suspect “continued to jump over fences and run through yards in an attempt to get away.”
Verro’s handler, Cpl. Brandon Kilgore, and the K-9 “soon after” arrived on the scene in a patrol vehicle. Kilgore “observed the male suspect running in the area of Brooks Road and Trotters Way” and he “quickly stopped his patrol vehicle and gave chase on foot,” Henson said.
“Handlers are trained on specific rules regarding the deployment of their K-9 partners,” said Henson, a former K-9 officer handler. “At the time Cpl. Kilgore arrived, the departmental criteria to deploy the dog had not been met so he did not release K-9 Verro.”
Henson said those who knew K-9 Verro’s nature “knew how attached and protective he was” of Kilgore.
“When Cpl. Kilgore left his patrol vehicle chasing someone, K-9 Verro wanted to be with him as the two were inseparable,” he said.
Henson said a “series of tragic, almost unbelievable events followed” in which Verro was able to squeeze through the partially open kennel door that separates his vehicle kennel from the driver’s compartment “which allowed him to crawl into the front of the SUV.”
“Standard practice when looking for a suspect fleeing on foot would be to have your vehicle windows partially or completely down so you can listen for the suspect,” Henson said.
“The front driver’s side window of the patrol vehicle, a 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, was partially down. K-9 Verro was able to inch his way out of the vehicle in an attempt to assist his handler.”
Henson said no deputies were aware Verro was out of the vehicle and “had Cpl. Kilgore known K-9 Verro was loose, he would have advised the other deputies to stop the foot pursuit and taken command of K-9 Verro.”.
“Shortly after K-9 Verro exited his vehicle, he observed a deputy sprinting away from him.
“In the absence of his handler’s direction, K-9 Verro could not differentiate between deputy and suspect. K-9 Verro apprehended the deputy by grabbing the back of his leg and followed his training by biting and holding until he was commanded to release.
“The deputy, who had been bitten from behind while running, had no idea the dog was actually a law enforcement canine. Unable to remove the dog from his leg, the deputy followed his training, drew his service weapon and shot and killed K-9 Verro.
“It wasn’t until a short time later that other deputies realized that the deceased animal was K-9 Verro,” he said.
Deputies in the area took the suspect into custody a short time later, he said.
“The deputy who was bitten has some injuries as a result of the apprehension but will heal with time,” Henson said.
Sheriff Gary Gulledge said he also is a former K-9 handler and “I know how special the bond is between a handler and his dog.”
“The emotional grief everyone is going through, including the deputy who was bitten, has been overwhelming. Please keep Cpl. Kilgore, his family, the K-9 Unit, our injured deputy, and the Sheriff’s Office in your prayers as we all go through this difficult time,” Gulledge said.
Henson said Verro “was the kind of working dog that any handler would dream of.”
“He had a high drive to fight crime and was relentless in his work ethic,” he said.
Verro was an 8-year-old Belgian malinois which had been partnered with Kilgore for more than seven years, Henson said.