GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A man is in custody following a standoff Sunday night in Grand Rapids on Leonard Street NW. It ended just after 3 a.m., after the suspect stabbed a Grand Rapids Police (GRPD) K9 officer.
The K9 officer, named "Eli," is a Belgian Malinois, who has been with the force for four years.
Eli is expected to survive the stabbing, but overnight when he was first brought to an animal hospital, it was unclear.
"The blood loss on scene was substantial to the point where we didn't know if he was going to make it to the hospital," said GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom. "I remember when I showed up the hospital, there was so much blood just in the entry way that they were out there mopping. A lot of people had some sad looks on their faces."
Eli lost a lot of blood, had a punctured lung and major thoracic injuries. He had at least one surgery and blood transfusions.
"Man, it was very emotional," said Winstrom, calling Eli a "tough dog."
He said the standoff began after officers were actively looking for an individual for "a 48 hour crime spree, weapons offenses, fleeing and alluding police, assaulting individuals."
Then, Chief Winstrom said when officers addressed the suspect at a home on Leonard Street, he began firing at officers.
"This individual is out on the roof, he's shooting guns off, he sees the police there and he starts shooting," said Winstrom. "Showing no regard whatsoever for anyone safety. We know in a situation like that, that if we move in, it's potentially, really a majority of the time, going to be a deadly use of force situation."
He said officers then attempted to slow the situation down. They evacuated the area, set up a perimeter, obtained a search warrant, threw a phone in the house and called it multiple times, made announcements on the PA system and eventually introduced pepper spray gas into the house. There was no effect to get the suspect to come out or drop his weapons.
"This is probably going to be a deadly force situation," said Winstrom. "So, it's a difficult decision. But we say, would we rather introduce a canine to that? Or would we rather introduce a human? So, we sent the canine in."
Eli made contact with the suspect right away, who began stabbing him with a kitchen knife. That was when officers were able to place him in custody.
Winstrom called it a difficult decision, but with no loss of human officer life, or injuries, "all the efforts that we took really resolved this as good as we could have expected."
"If you flip this, if you say, let's send the police," said Winstrom. "Let's send my special response team, let's send them in instead, and they're faced with this individual, whether he still has a gun, or whether he attacks them with a large butcher knife like he did this dog, that's a deadly force situation. So, it's not going to end in a good way."
Now that Eli is on the road to recovery, Winstrom said he is "elated." It is unclear at this time what the future holds for Eli on the force. Winstrom said those who worked closest to Eli think he will want to return to work, which they would be happy to have him. However, if Eli suffers from PTSD or other issues from the injury, he will retire.
"Whether or not Eli comes back to the police department to work," said Winstrom. "I'm just elated that he'll be able to go home to the handler's family and make a recovery, and at least go back and be able to be a dog, even if it's a retired police dog."
The suspect, whose name is not being released at this time, could be facing multiple charges for assault, fleeing police, weapons and now, attempting to kill a police K9.
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