Six juveniles from Chattanooga have been charged with shooting a Bradley County K9 in the head.
The K9, Joker, is listed in "very serious condition."
At approximately 1:40 a.m. on Wednesday, the Cleveland Police Department responded to an auto burglary in progress at Park Oaks Apartments on Harrison Pike. Upon their arrival, units made entry on both sides of the apartment complex and observed a white Jeep Gladiator fleeing the scene at a high rate of speed, almost striking a Cleveland Police officer and running through a fence. The vehicle then preceded onto Georgetown Road, headed northbound towards I-75.
Bradley County Sheriff deputies quickly made contact with the vehicle around the 25 mile marker. It was confirmed that the vehicle was stolen out of Hamilton County and units attempted to conduct a vehicle stop. The suspects fled on foot into the woods around Toyota of Cleveland at Exit 20.
K9 Joker was deployed by his handler, Bradley County Sheriff deputy Eduardo Choate. Upon making contact with the suspects, K9 Joker was shot in the head. The gunshot was heard by deputies and K9 Joker was located shortly after in a thickly wooded area.
The K9 was carried out of the woods and immediately taken to an emergency animal hospital in Chattanooga, where he underwent surgery due to his life-threatening injuries. His handler, Deputy Choate, was unharmed during the incident.
There was a handgun located in the stolen Jeep. Sheriff Steve Lawson activated the BCSO SWAT Team and other off duty officers to set up a perimeter in attempt to keep the suspects within a certain area until they were apprehended.
During this time, authorities were notified that a 2009 4-door IS250 Lexus with no tag and a loud muffler had been stolen from the Withrow Road area and headed southbound towards Chattanooga. A witness said the vehicle was last seen occupied by at least four black males and they were considered to be armed and dangerous.
There was a video of the vehicle theft that showed the initial suspects in progress. There was also another firearm in that vehicle when it was stolen.
Later that day, the Chattanooga Housing Authority Police located the stolen vehicle on Dahlia Street. Detectives responded there and verified it was the stolen vehicle. The apartment was then secured by the Chattanooga Housing Authority Police and the Chattanooga Police Department.
There were multiple people located in the apartment, including six juveniles, who matched the description of the suspects. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office detectives obtained a search warrant for the apartment. While serving the search warrant, they located stolen property including two stolen handguns. After further investigation, detectives were able to positively identify six male juveniles from Chattanooga as the suspects in the crimes.
The Cleveland Police Department charged them with 15 counts of auto burglary, conspiracy to commit auto burglary, and felony evading arrest. They were also charged with theft over $10,000, conspiracy to commit theft over $10,000, and attempted intentional killing of an animal by the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office. All six juveniles are in custody at this time.
Joker is still being treated at an emergency animal hospital in Chattanooga and his condition at this time is very serious. It was stated in K9 Jokers Medical Summary “He is an extremely strong patient who is being incredibly tolerant with his doctors and nurses.”
The Bradley County Sheriff's Office said, "Thank you for your continued prayers for Deputy Eduardo Choate, K9 Joker, and their family. We would like to thank the Cleveland Police Department, Chattanooga Police Department, Homeland Security, ATF, Chattanooga Housing Authority Police Department, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, 10th District Attorney’s Office, and all other agencies that worked tirelessly to locate and apprehend these suspects."