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Memorial service held for K-9 shot, killed in Yancey County

Posted July 21

— The sound of bagpipes filled the auditorium inside Mountain Heritage High School Thursday afternoon as Corporal Austin Wilson and his family followed the piper down an aisle to his fallen partners memorial.

Set on the table on stage was a leash, a chew toy and a folded American flag inside a wooden case. The nameplate under the flag was engraved with a Yancey County Sheriff Badge next to an inscription that reads, "K-9 Officer Chris. January 21, 2009 - July 12, 2017."

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Chris was an 8-year-old Dutch Shepherd, a seven year veteran of the Yancey County Sheriff's Office and part of Corporal Wilson's home.

"He wasn't only just my partner, you know, he was just like a member of our family. He was always there," Corporal Wilson said. "He's been there for the past seven years. My little boy would run down to his plot every evening whenever I'd come home and want to play with him, you know. So, it's been difficult."

Chris was found shot in his cage last Wednesday morning, July 12, as Corporal Wilson was leaving for work. Wilson said he didn't hear a shot, but a neighbor claims to have heard a single gunshot around 4 a.m.

Sheriff D. Gary Banks said Chris was one of the most popular members of the sheriff's department.

"A wonderful, sweet dog who loved children, but on the flip side, whenever he needed to be all business, he was all business," Banks told News 13.

Officers and other K-9s took turns saluting their fallen comrade during Thursday's ceremony, each pair stopping at Chris' memorial.

"He was just a loving dog," Wilson said. "I mean, you'd have to knock him off of you every time you let him out because he'd just want to -- he's more or less an 85 pound lap dog."

Sheriff Banks told News 13 they've ruled out the possibility Chris was shot in a hunting accident. The sheriff also said his department is working several leads, but isn't ready to make an arrest.

The sheriff, however, does have a message for whomever shot their beloved K-9.

"The best thing you could do would be just to turn yourself in, make a phone call because we will catch you, and we will prosecute you," Banks said.

The Yancey County Sheriff's Office is offering a reward of $5,300 for any information leading to an arrest. That reward started at $1,000 but has ballooned thanks to support and donations from community members and well-wishers.

If you have any information, please call the Yancey County Sheriff's Office at 828-682-2124.

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