MENLO, GA (WDEF)- "A beautiful dog." That's how Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson described "Tanja", shot and killed in the line of duty by 58 year old Steve Waldemer.
"She was leading through the front door to try to apprehend the suspect, he fired a shot, killing the canine and also wounding the deputy Donnie Brown in the neck and face. And very thankful that did the ground the injuries did not appear to be life-threatening," said Sheriff Steve Wilson.
Deputies were executing an arrest warrant against Waldemer on sexual assault charges. The suspect was eventually captured in a field a short time after the shooting, but too late to bring back one of Walker County's own, just 8 weeks on the job.
"We are grieving over the loss of our canine just you know we treat them just like a member of our family. It hurts just the same. When you have that animal you're feeding, and watering it, bathing it, taking it to the doctor, and sleeping with you, your kids are playing with it, it just it becomes part of you. I know Deputy Brown was so emotional about what happened. He is pretty distraught right now, losing his friend."
A friend that did her job to the very end.....
"Tonya had just entered into the hallway and had turned right then turn back left when he fired the shot. Our canine had crawled from the front entrance of the door opening down the hallway to where the suspect was."
In an additional, tragic turn, the department just received funding for equipment that might have saved Tanja's life.
"I received the check from a bikers organization to buy a bulletproof vest. The check is on my desk. They know that the canine many times the first one through the door protecting that handler behind them. They deliver a check to my office today, and the check is on my desk for the full amount of the vest."
Sheriff Wilson says they will make sure "Tanja" is honored as one of their own....
"I think we all owe it to Deputy Brown that. Have some type of memorial service for his partner. I would say we need to do that."