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PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP, Penn. -- A Plymouth Township police dog died in the line of duty yesterday, leaving a department in mourning.
Andy, a German shepherd who joined the force in 2005, was accidentally shot by an officer during a search for robber suspects in Lower Gwynedd Township. The bullet also struck Andy's handler, Officer Louis Layfield, in the chest of his bulletproof vest, Plymouth Township Chief Joseph F. Lawrence said.
"This is a big loss. He was one of us," Lawrence said. "I was at the hospital when we had to euthanize him. I think we all shed a tear."
The K-9 team was requested after a robbery was reported at the Abington Bank on Bethlehem Pike, Lawrence said. At the scene, Layfield released Andy so he could pursue a suspect.
"Unfortunately, another officer probably unfamiliar with K-9s" joined the pursuit, Lawrence said.
When Andy saw the gun, his training kicked in and he bit the officer, who "accidentally discharged his weapon," Lawrence said.
The chief said he sympathized with the Montgomery Township officer who fired the shot. "I'm not second-guessing the officer," he said. "We thank God Officer Layfield wasn't injured."
Andy had worked for seven years as a police dog, trained in patrol and narcotics detection, Lawrence said. He came to Plymouth Township after his handler in the Conshohocken department was injured.
"These dogs really want to work," Lawrence said. "You tell an officer to do something, and they might ask why. You tell a dog to do something, and they just go."
The department, which has three other dogs, chooses animals with friendly dispositions because they often visit schools, he said.
The department will memorialize Andy. "It's too soon to know what form that will take," Lawrence said.
Police arrested three suspects in the bank robbery, he said.