By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
It was a somber and emotional scene at the Civic Center Park in downtown St. Joseph on Friday afternoon, as hundreds gathered to honor the life of St. Joseph Police K-9 Max, who was killed in the line of duty on June 30.
Dozens of officers from surrounding cities and counties attended the funeral in uniform, while hundreds of others stood near the War Memorial at Civic Center Park, where Max's farewell services were held.
Having first arrived in the U.S. in July 2018, Max joined the St. Joseph Police Department in February 2019, and served alongside his handler and trainer - officer Lucas Winder.
"Working with Max, it was like taking your best friend and kid to work every day," he said. "We would go out and have fun, but also go out and get business done. Every day was a blessing. I'm just grateful for the time we did have together."
Of Max's numerous skills and qualities, Winder will remember his partner's loyalty the most.
"He was my kid," Winder said fondly. "It's funny, because my wife or someone else would try and talk to him, he would just laser-beam focus on me. You could just tell our bond was just there. Unbreakable. It was beautiful. The kid was always there for me."
St. Joseph Police Chief Chris Connally says whether it be two legs or four, Max was one of their own, and losing him was a very painful experience.
"When we lost Max, we lost an officer," he said, "and it hurts...he was one of our own."
Max’s death occurred late on the night June 30 after St. Joseph Police responded to a call that an armed man had barricaded himself into a residence.
During negotiations, the armed suspect fled out of the back of the residence. He shot K-9 Max during the pursuit. Max was transported to Kansas City for emergency care, but died of his wounds.
Connally said Max lived out his sworn duty as a St. Joseph Police officer right until the very end.
"We as police officers are sworn to protect and serve and Max did exactly that," Connally said. "As trained and true to his mission, he did his job, and while doing it likely saved our officers and maybe even the perpetrator."
A charge of armed criminal action has been filed against 24-year-old Valdez McDonald in the death of Max. McDonald also faces a charge of domestic abuse charge for assault against his mother.
The time that has followed Max's death has been a 'day-by-day battle,' according to Winder, but he thanks the community for the outpouring of support he's received since that awful night.
"I couldn't even tell you the amount of calls and texts I've received," Winder said. "Not just from this jurisdiction, but nationwide. It's been beautiful to see everyone come together."
Video of the service can be seen here:
Full photo gallery below: