St. Clair Shores K-9 killed in the line of duty

Shooter killed by police, incident under investigation

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 5, 2018 | Updated November 9, 2018 5:59pm

 Axe was shot and killed Nov. 4.

Axe was shot and killed Nov. 4.

File photo by Kristyne Demske

ST. CLAIR SHORES — St. Clair Shores Police are mourning the loss of a K-9 officer shot in the line of duty at a local banquet hall Nov. 4.

According to a press release from St. Clair Shores Police, 911 dispatchers received a call from Lakeland Manor, 26211 Harper Ave., around 6:22 p.m. Nov. 4 because of a man with a gun at the hall.

St. Clair Shores Police Chief Todd Woodcox said that police officers arrived and first encountered the man outside of the banquet hall.

The press release states that 70 people were inside the hall at the time, and the man was holding a long gun. He ignored several commands from police and tried to leave the area on foot.

That’s when K-9 Axe, who has been with the department since 2016, was deployed.

According to the release, the man fired shots which struck the K-9, and St. Clair Shores Police officers returned fire, hitting the man.

The shooter was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead. The shooter has been identified by the Macomb County Sheriff's Office as Theoddeus Gray, 29, of Detroit. A press release from the Macomb County Sheriff's Office states that no further information will be released until the investigation is complete.

Axe was taken to a local animal hospital, where he was pronounced dead, as well.

Woodcox said that dozens of K-9 handlers from across the area immediately converged at the animal hospital.

“The K-9 units are a very tight-knit group, and as soon as word got out regarding Axe, the entire metro Detroit K-9 community came together,” Woodcox said Nov. 5. “There were at least 30 K-9 handlers at the vet last night and (they) escorted Axe from the vet to the morgue.”

The investigation is ongoing and will be handled by the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department because of the involvement of St. Clair Shores Police. Woodcox said that officers are on paid administrative leave in connection with the shooting, but he did not say which officers or how many are on leave while the investigation continues.

Officer Tom Price, K-9 Axe’s handler, has been an officer with the St. Clair Shores Police Department for more than 21 years. He named the German shepherd after Navy SEAL Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Axelson, a 29-year-old from Cupertino, California, who was killed in Afghanistan June 28, 2005, when his team was ambushed by Taliban forces.

When he first began training with Axe in 2016, Price said it was fitting to name the dog after a member of the military killed in action because Price’s grandfather was a veteran from World War II, as was the anonymous donor that sponsored the dog.

Woodcox said Nov. 5 that no other St. Clair Shores Police K-9 dogs have ever been shot in the line of duty. K-9 Axe was 4 years old.

“He was the best dog we’ve ever had,” Woodcox said.

In honor of K-9 Axe, all city flags will be flying at half mast Nov. 5.