The Forest Lake Police Department’s K-9 unit, Ranger, died after assisting local law enforcement with a traffic stop on Feb. 7. His end of watch was listed at 12:38 a.m. Feb. 8. Preliminary results suggest that the dog died after going into cardiac arrest.
According to reports from the Forest Lake Police Department and Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Minnesota State Patrol attempted to conduct a stop on a vehicle for a traffic violation on a state patrol-monitored road. A state patrol car followed the vehicle onto a side road near the intersections of State Highway 97 and U.S. Highway 61 (the dead end near the city’s south shop), where Forest Lake police assisted on the stop around 11:30 p.m. An occupant of the car (whose name has not yet been released) was allegedly not compliant with officer instructions. Eventually, Ranger was deployed to bring the person into compliance, and an arrest was made.
Shortly after the arrest was made, Ranger had a medical emergency and became unresponsive while in his assigned squad car. Resuscitation was attempted at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital, but the veterinarians there were unable to revive him, and he was declared dead.
Ranger, a German shepherd, was a familiar face to many community members, as he and his handling officer Nick Kent were often part of the department’s community outreach events. In 2013, Kent and Sgt. Mark Richert started the Run With Ranger 5K event, which raised money for the Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau and helped familiarize the public with the department’s K-9 program. Ranger, who was about 1 and a half years old when he was purchased, was with the department for seven years.
Ranger was the department’s only K-9 service animal. Police Chief Rick Peterson gave a short, emotional speech at the Feb. 13 City Council meeting, remembering the love the community had for Ranger and the way the dog helped build bridges between the residents and the Police Department. He also thanked current and previous council members for supporting the K-9 program.
“Anywhere you go in this community, people talk about Ranger,” he said. “Honestly, they say I’m the face of this department, (but) I think he was.”
Mayor Ben Winnick and Councilman Michael Freer offered their condolences on Ranger’s death and remarked on the effect the dog had on the community, especially its kids. Freer mentioned that his children had spoken to him about their positive interactions with Ranger.
“I think it was a much bigger impact than people would really think about,” he said.
The city plans to proclaim a day in honor of Ranger at a later date.
Acquiring a new dog to continue the K-9 program would require the approval of the City Council. During his speech, Peterson acknowledged that the program may be temporarily on hold as the future of the department is considered along with the option of contracting with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, but he was hopeful that a new dog would ultimately carry on in Ranger’s stead.
“As many of you know, Ranger was originally purchased and trained in large part through donations received from the community and area businesses,” he said. “The past few weeks have been very difficult, not only for the Forest Lake Police Department family, but the entire community of Forest Lake as well. Once we get through these difficult times, I am hopeful we can discuss the possibility of continuing the K-9 program, as it has been very successful and beneficial to our community.”
A public memorial service to commemorate Ranger will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 22 at Century Junior High School. More details about the traffic stop will be released as they become available. The department is unsure if Ranger’s medical emergency was triggered by something that occurred during the traffic stop; the matter is being investigated.