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Florida K-9 dies after being shot while protecting deputies from ‘armed criminal’: sheriff

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A Florida K-9 police officer was shot during a weekend confrontation while protecting a deputy from a violent criminal suspect and died from his injuries, authorities announced Tuesday.

Leo, a kindergarten through ninth grade student, “fearlessly charged” a “violent armed criminal” who was threatening police officers with a gun in the backyard of a Silver Springs home on Saturday, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. He was said to have been seriously injured during the incident.

“During the confrontation, this evil individual shot and killed K-9 Leo as he responded to protect his handler and other deputies,” said Sheriff Billy Woods. “Leo did exactly what he was trained to do… which was to fearlessly defend and protect the members of Congress.”

Leo, a Belgian Malinois who worked for the sheriff’s office for three years, was shot in an area that his bulletproof vest couldn’t reach. FOX13 Tampa report.

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K-9 Leo worked for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for three years. (Marion County Sheriff’s Office)

The suspect, identified as 44-year-old Jeremy Bradshire, died after officers returned fire.

Meanwhile, Leo was rushed to the University of Florida Veterinary Hospital in Gainesville.

K-9 Leo and K-9 Corporal Justin Tortola

K-9 Leo’s handler, Corporal. Officials say Justin Tortola never left his partner’s side as he fought for his life. (Marion County Sheriff’s Office)

As Leo fought for his life for the next four days, K-9 Corporal Justin Tortola never left his partner’s side, the sheriff’s office said.

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Although Leo had a “fighting spirit,” the K-9’s injuries were “too severe to overcome” and he died Tuesday morning, the sheriff’s office said.

K-9 Leo

Marion County K-9 Officer Leo died Tuesday after being shot by a suspect over the weekend. (Marion County Sheriff’s Office)

“Most of you don’t know about the unique bond that exists between law enforcement K9s and their handlers,” Woods said. “It is that bond that unites them with an extraordinary level of loyalty, love, and unwavering commitment.”

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The Sheriff’s Office thanked the community for its support. Details about services for K-9 Leos were not immediately provided.

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