JONESVILLE — Authorities in Lee County are awaiting autopsy results to determine what caused the death of a K9 officer that went missing early last week.
Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons said the remains of K9 Officer Chase were located in the Stone Creek community late Friday night in a culvert off State Route 606, approximately two miles from where he was last seen July 16.
“He had begun to decompose, so we couldn’t make a determination (as to cause of death),” Parsons said. “He was laying outside, and it was so humid, so that’s why we’re sending him off.”
Parsons said the dog’s autopsy will be carried out by the Virginia Tech College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg.
Since the remains were discovered, Parsons said officers have been following various leads in an effort to identify possible suspects.
“If we catch whoever did this, we’ll prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” Parsons said. “They’re nothing but trash in my book.”
Killing a police dog is a Class 5 felony in Virginia that carries a sentence ranging from one to 10 years in prison.
Parsons said a $1,000 reward has been posted by the Lee County Board of Supervisors for information leading to a successful conviction in the case. Another $2,500 reward was posted by the Lee County Farm Bureau.
Chase — a black German shepherd — was the Lee County Sheriff Office’s only K9 officer. Parsons said the dog cost the department roughly $8,000 to obtain less than a year ago.
Parsons said the dog went missing around noon July 16 when his handler, Deputy Roger Gates, stopped at the Leeman Field on the outskirts of Pennington Gap to use the restroom.
After returning to his cruiser, Parsons said Gates noticed the K9 officer had apparently been taken from the back seat.
“Somebody got him out of the car,” Parsons said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
Parsons added: “(Chase) was pretty involved in the community, and a lot of people had been around him and petted him. Some people may have known he was a passive dog.”
Officers unsuccessfully searched the immediate area for Chase before receiving a tip several days later that a dead dog matching the K9’s description had been located near a trash bin three miles from the site where he went missing.
The dog’s remains had been removed by the time officers arrived to verify the claim, Parsons said.
The dog was finally located late Friday night in a culvert nearby.
Since the dog first went missing, Parsons said the reaction from the community has been supportive of the sheriff’s office.
“It makes you feel good that there are good people out there concerned about the pieces of trash that would do something like this,” Parsons said.
Parsons said Chase’s handler was naturally upset by the incident, and the department plans to hold a service for the fallen K9 in the near future.
“He’s of course very upset about his dog, but he’s doing fine,” Parsons said. “We plan on having a memorial service really soon.”
Parsons said his office will file an insurance claim as a result of the incident and does plan on adding another K9 officer to the ranks as soon as possible.
Anyone with information surrounding the K9’s disappearance or death can contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at (276) 346-7777 or Lee County Dispatch at (276) 346-1131.