Dozens upon dozens of emergency vehicles from agencies across Middle Tennessee escorted the remains of La Vergne Police K9 Sjaak along a route of filled with mourners Thursday to a Nashville facility that will help make final arrangements for the hero that was killed in the line of duty.
La Vergne Police Department K9 Sjaak died in the line of duty Wednesday after a suspect opened fire on the patrol vehicle he was riding in with Officer Justin Darby on Tuesday. Sjaak (pronounced Jacques) was shot three times, police said.
Darby was not injured, LPD said. The suspect was fatally wounded in a shoot-out Tuesday afternoon with police following a chase.
On Thursday afternoon, dozens of officers crowded into and outside of Animal Medical Center on River Rock Boulevard to prepare for the motorcade, including many K9s with their handlers. AMC is where Sjaak had undergone emergency surgery before dying from his wounds.
The motorcade took Interstate 24 to La Vergne and down Murfreesboro Road, where police had asked mourners to gather to pay tribute. Officers ultimately took Sjaak to Faithful Friends Pet Memorial Services in Nashville, which will handle cremation services.
Sjaak will be buried with full honors, LPD said. A memorial service will be planned for a later date.
Sjaak is a Belgian Malinois who has been with the department since 2014.
“Our hearts are broken,” said Interim LPD Chief Chip Davis. “Our K9s are members of the LPD family. Sjaak was an amazing and loyal dog. We ask everyone to keep Officer Darby, his family, and all of the La Vergne officers in your thoughts and prayers as we deal with this loss.”
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation identified the shooting suspect as Jovan Brice, 39.
The incident began when Darby drove his patrol vehicle out of the police department shortly after noon Tuesday and pulled onto Murfreesboro Road, the TBI said. A vehicle driven by Brice pulled alongside the passenger side, and Brice allegedly fired shots into the patrol car.
Darby and other officers pursued Brice into a residential complex at 1502 Rutherford Point Circle, the TBI said. An investigation showed Brice left his vehicle and allegedly fired at the officers, who returned fire.
The suspect got back into his vehicle and drove further into the parking lot, striking a parked vehicle before coming to rest, the TBI said. When officers approached the vehicle, they found the driver had sustained a gunshot wound. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
La Vergne Mayor Jason Cole said, "It's hard to find the right words. We are heartbroken but none so greatly as Officer Darby and his family. We were honored to have Sjaak serve our department. He was a wonderful dog and a loyal partner. Our community was better for his service and he will be missed greatly."
Sixteenth District Attorney General Jennings Jones requested the assistance of TBI in the investigation, which is a normal procedure in police-involved shootings.
Editor's Note: The spelling of the suspect's name was updated after the TBI confirmed the spelling was given incorrectly to them.