A community in Missouri is mourning the death of a police officer and his K-9 partner who died in an accident while sitting in their patrol car. A male pedestrian also died after the fatal collision.
The Kansas City Police Department shared news of the deaths in a statement Thursday, identifying the KCPD victims as Officer James Muhlbauer, 42, and Champ, his K-9 partner.
“Muhlbauer and Champ were in their patrol vehicle when a vehicle crashed into them near the intersection of Truman Rd. and Benton Blvd. shortly after 10:15 p.m.,” the department said.
Champ, a 3-year-old Dutch Shepherd, was pronounced dead at the scene, along with a pedestrian who had been shot. The KCPD simply described the third victim as a male in his 50s. His identity has not been made public; however, the officers asked the audience to pray for his family.
Muhlbauer, who was also a husband and father, was rushed to the hospital where he died. He suffered life-threatening injuries and “doctors treated him but were unable to save him”.
Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said, according to the Associated Press, police officers from another department took Champ’s remains to the hospital so he and Muhlbauer could enjoy what Graves called a ” hero stash” one last time.
“You live with your dog, your partner, your family lives with your partner,” Graves said, according to the AP. “You go to work every day. You work out every day. You literally eat, sleep and live with your partner. They are more than just a dog. They really are the best partners they can have.”
Prior to Muhlbauer’s death, a KCPD officer had not died in the line of duty since May 2001, the department said in its statement.
He also hailed Muhlbauer as a 20-year veteran who served as a patrol officer “throughout his patrol career, including his last three years in the K-9 unit.”
Champ joined the KCPD forces last year and lived with Muhlbauer and the late officer’s family.
The KCPD said it was investigating the incident, “including the possibility of impaired driving by the driver of the striking vehicle”.
The case will go to the prosecutor’s office after the KCPD concludes its investigation.
The department is preparing funeral services and plans to share the details with the public when they are finalized, the KCPD statement said.
Local residents can pay their respects by placing flowers on a patrol vehicle that stands in front of Police Headquarters at 1125 Locust St.
“We are hurt,” the KCPD added in a Facebook post.
KCPD did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
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Mayor Quinton Lucas said the incident follows the injury of another officer who was shot at department headquarters after the Kansas City Chiefs played in the Super Bowl Sunday night, according to the AP.
“We are all saddened by the Kansas City Police Department, the women and men of the department,” Lucas said. “We are certainly grieved with the officer’s family.”