CHARLESTON, S.C (WCBD) – The Lowcountry law enforcement community is in mourning after a K9 died in the line of duty on Thursday.
K9 Rico was one year into his career with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division when he was killed while assisting in the search for a suspect accused of shooting and injuring two people, including a Charleston County deputy.
Chief Mark Keel said K9 Rico was inside a residence believed to be connected to the suspect, Ernest Burbage III.
“Very shortly after he was inserted, there was a gunshot, and he was killed by Ernest Burbage,” said Chief Keel during a news conference on Thursday.
Burbage was killed by law enforcement shortly after K9 Rico was shot.
Though K9 Rico’s time with SLED was cut short, he accomplished a lot over the past year with his partner, Special Agent Richard Hunton III. K9 Rico was credited by Chief Keel for countless apprehensions to keep the community safe.
Chief Keel released a statement on Friday.
“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and heartfelt messages from the community and our fellow law enforcement officers. K9 Rico is a hero who saved countless lives yesterday and throughout his short career. Please keep SLED’s SWAT Team, SLED’s K9 Tracking Team, Special Agent Richard Hunton, III, and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”
News 2 spoke with Sgt. Craig Akins, a member of the North Charleston Police Department’s K-9 unit about the impact of losing a K9 officer.
“The handlers, they generally spend more time with their K9 partners than they do their husbands, wives, children. So, the bond is very strong,” said Sgt. Akins. He knows this from his own experience with his partner, K9 Vik. “When a K9 is lost like it was yesterday, it hurts. It really does.”
A SLED spokesperson said memorial service details are being planned and will be announced at the appropriate time.