Veteran K-9 And Handler Named In Shooting

SPOKANE — Police revealed Friday morning that a veteran police dog was the K-9 injured in this week’s deadly shooting and his handler was the one who shot the suspected car thief.

Officer Danny Lesser and Sgt. Brent Austin, along with K-9 dog Var, tracked down 22-year-old Johnnie Longest Tuesday night near the intersection of Division and Lacrosse, when a car Longest was driving was reported as stolen.  

Longest was tracked by Var when he tried to run from police and Var was subsequently shot twice by the fleeing suspect. Officer Lesser then returned fire, killing Longest.

Var, a long-serving police dog, was in stable condition when he arrived at a 24 hour pet emergency clinic. One bullet grazed Var across the face and the second bullet lodged in his hind leg, but will not be removed.

Var is expected to recover but he will never be a police dog again. He was on the force for eight years before he retired in January.  His replacement didn’t work out so police brought Var out of retirement and he was shot on just his third day back on the job.

“Var is probably the dog of dogs in this region. He’s been here eight working the streets hundreds of captures,” Officer Shawn Kendall, a fellow K9 officer whose partner is Stryder, said.

Kendall calls Var a hero because he may have taken a bullet that was meant for one of his fellow officers.

“If the bad guy choses to hurt an officer, the dog is going to take the brunt of that first and that’s what happened this week,” Kendall said.

Kendall says the dogs go where it’s too dangerous for officers to go and they go in first.

The police department has five police dogs and they all have bullet proof vests but they’re too hot to be worn all shift.

Var would have had his vest on if officers knew Longest was armed but they did not and with where he was shot the vest would not have helped him anyway.