Criminal investigation underway after death of retired K-9 found

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By Sandra Tan
The Buffalo News, New York

ERIE COUNTY, NY – The frantic search for Haso – a retired K-9 credited with saving many lives during his four years as an active member of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office – has come to an end shockingly.

Haso was found dead around 4:30 p.m. Friday, and the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office suspects the dog may have been deliberately injured. An active criminal investigation is ongoing.

The dog’s body was found about half a mile from its owner’s home in West Valley, said Capt. Jordan Haines, the lead detective who came across the dog after following up on a tip. It was clear to deputies that Haso did not die of dehydration or exposure, he said.

“The way he died is such that it would trigger a criminal investigation,” he said.

Haines said he couldn’t say more because investigators are still interviewing people. He said he expects to have more information to release on Saturday.

Following the tip received by the sheriff’s office, the entire criminal office went looking for the dog, Haines said.

Haso’s body was taken to Cornell University for an autopsy.

Neighbors, friends and even professional dog-finding detectives had volunteered to search for the K-9 who had been missing since Monday evening.

Haso’s owner, Deputy Richard Lundberg, became anxious after Haso ran away Monday night and did not return home Tuesday morning.

Lundberg lives in Cattaraugus County, next to hundreds of acres of woods. This made the search difficult. ATVs and trail cameras were used to search for Haso.

The Buffalo News wrote about Haso in January 2020, when the dog was among the retired K-9s when marijuana was legalized in New York State, compromising their training in illegal drug detection.

Both Lundberg and Haso left the K-9 unit at the same time.

Haso played a key role in the arrest of a city parking meter mechanic and a substitute teacher. After deputies stopped the city employee’s vehicle on the Scajaquada Freeway, K-9 discovered a bag of cocaine hidden in a side vent on the dashboard. The sheriff’s office seized half a kilo of cocaine, 15 grams of fentanyl and $7,500 in cash from the couple’s car.

Lundberg also recounted Haso’s gifts as a tracker. The K-9 sniffed the pajamas of an elderly Clarence man with dementia who had wandered off one night. Haso traced the scent in the woods and found it.

“There are at least eight people who wouldn’t be alive today without him,” Lundberg said Wednesday.

Lundberg said he let Haso out of his kennel around 7:45 p.m. Monday and went into his garage for four minutes. When the deputy returned, Haso was gone. The deputy used his security cameras and suspected something was attracting the dog’s attention, causing it to take off.

Lundberg and his friends with ATVs roamed the woods, Lundberg leaving clothes and bedding with his perfume on them to give Haso a scent trail home.

The Erie County Sheriff’s Office posted information about the missing K-9 on social media on Wednesday.

A research group of dogs called “Sherlock Bones” assisted in the search effort. Lundberg said Thursday they found what they believe to be Haso’s tracks.

Lundberg hoped that Haso, a professional tracker, had simply lost his way back, or was alive but injured or stuck somewhere. But he said on Wednesday his biggest fear was that Haso, a dog who was perfectly healthy on Monday, was no longer alive.

“It’s the hardest thing,” he said.

(c) 2022 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)

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