A Utah autobody shop has taken on a unique task — creating a customized casket for a police service dog killed in the line of duty.
Hondo, a member of the K-9 unit of the Herriman Police Department near Salt Lake City, Utah, was fatally shot while chasing a fugitive.
“I really wanted to pay tribute and honour Hondo,” said John Ward, the owner of Rawtin Garage, near Salt Lake City.
Ward, who previously worked with the police department painting logos on their motorcycles, was honoured when the department approached him with this assignment.
“I had less then 24 hours to design and paint the casket, and I wanted to create something to honour the service this hero had provided,” said Ward.
Hondo, a seven-year-old Belgian Malinois was trained in Europe before joining the Herriman Police Force in 2018.
“PSD Hondo and his handler Sgt. Ben Ricks, were one of the best K-9 units in Utah, if not the country,” said chief Troy Carr in a press statement on Feb. 14.
Hondo aided in over 100 felony arrests, and hundreds of pounds of narcotics were taken off the streets directly due to his skill, according to police.
Shortly before midnight on Feb. 13, officers were chasing a violent criminal, and when he refused to obey their orders, they dispatched their K-9 unit, said members of the Herriman PD during a press briefing.
Hondo and his handler arrived at the scene shortly thereafter, and when he approached the fugitive, he proceeded to pull out a gun and shoot Hondo in the chest.
Hondo was transferred to an emergency veterinary hospital, where he died soon after.
“The entire HC police department are heartbroken and mourning the tremendous loss of a K-9 partner and friend,” said Carr.
Carr struggled to remain composed as he fought back tears speaking about Hondo’s heroic actions that night.
“These animals are not just pets, they are a part of our family,” said Carr.
“PSD Hondo was a true warrior,” said Carr. “And his actions last night assured his loving friend and partner Ben would be able to return home to his wife, children and HPD family.”
The story of Hondo — and Ward’s tribute — were noted by people across the world.
A memorial service honouring Hondo will be taking place on Saturday, Feb. 29, and members of the public will be able to pay tribute.