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GLEN LYN, Va. -- About 230 police officers and community members honored a fallen Giles County police dog Monday at the church where the dog was killed in a friendly fire incident on Friday.
The officer who shot Carsen, a 3-year-old Belgian malinois, while both were responding to a reported break-in at the Glen Lyn Church of Christ, spoke at the memorial service.
Sgt. Richard Gautier of the Pearisburg Police Department stood before a sea of K-9 officers from across the state and took responsibility for the shooting, saying neither Carsen nor Carsen's handler, Giles County Sgt. Scott Dunn, were to blame.
"He felt like it was the time and the place to do that," Giles County Sheriff Morgan Millirons said of Gautier.
Millirons had withheld the name of the responsible officer, saying that those involved were taking the dog's death very hard.
"A lot of people think we've been trying to cover up," Millirons said. "But you just don't give out critical information during an investigation."
Michael Smith, pastor of the church, said he was in his church office about 6:30 a.m. Friday when he heard someone trying to break in and called 911. He also heard the gunshot that killed Carsen.
The congregation was happy to help organize Monday's service, Smith said. Dunn has family ties to the church, and he and Carsen had visited there before.
Smith said he also knows Gautier and described him as a "really good man and a seasoned officer."
Police from various jurisdictions responded to the break-in Friday, including Dunn and Carsen, who were sent in to search the building. It's unclear whether Carsen showed aggression toward Gautier before the shooting.
"I think it was a case of surprise on both sides," Millirons said. "But he [Carsen] was trained to protect his handler and to apprehend the suspect."
No one has been apprehended in connection with the break-in, Millirons said.
Dunn eulogized his canine partner Monday, saying he had lost not only a comrade but a family member. Dunn recalled Carsen stealing laundry and leading Dunn's wife on a chase through the house. The dog also liked to jump into the bathtub and drink from the faucet.
"Last Friday morning, tragedy struck my family," Dunn said. "It's a love and a bond only canine handlers can understand."
Many at the service described Carsen as a dedicated, tough police dog and a gentle friend who loved children.
The dog could drag a suspect out of a building, "and the next minute you could pet him," Millirons said.
Monroe Blevins, a bugler from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, played taps as four officers bore Carsen's flag-draped casket out of the church and into a police-issue white Ford Explorer.
"We do about 50 veterans' funerals a year, and it's the same emotions today," Blevins said.
"They are officers ... they work just as hard, and they need to be honored just as much," Smith said.
Dunn and his wife left the funeral in tears in a brown sheriff's office cruiser. Carsen was to be interred on the Dunn family farm following a private ceremony, Millirons said.
Tommy Zeitler of the Virginia Police Work Dog Association also attended the service and presented the sheriff with a $500 check to go toward finding and training a new patrol dog, Millirons said.
Acquiring and training Carsen cost the department about $8,000, according to Millirons.
Carsen was trained for patrol, drug detection, tracking and evidence identification. He had served with the department since April, Millirons said.