Criminal investigation underway after retired K-9 found dead

Police said it was clear that K-9 Haso did not die of dehydration or exposure

By Sandra Tan
The Buffalo News, N.Y.

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — The frantic search for Haso — a retired K-9 credited with saving many lives during his four years as an active duty member of the Erie County Sheriff's Office — has come to a shocking end.

Haso was found dead around 4:30 p.m. Friday, and the Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office suspects the dog may have been deliberately harmed. An active criminal investigation is underway.

The dog's body was found about a half mile from his owner's house in West Valley, said Capt. Jordan Haines, the chief of detectives who came upon the dog after following up on a tip. It was clear to deputies that Haso did not die of dehydration or exposure, he said.

"The way he died is such that it would kick off a criminal investigation," he said.

Haines said he could not elaborate more because investigators are still interviewing people. He said he expects to have more information to release on Saturday.

Following the tip the Sheriff's Office received, the entire criminal bureau went searching for the dog, Haines said.

Haso's body has been taken to Cornell University for a necropsy.

Neighbors, friends and even professional, dog-finding sleuths had volunteered in the search for the K-9 who had been missing since Monday night.

Haso's owner, Deputy Richard Lundberg, became anxious after Haso ran away Monday night and didn't return to the house by Tuesday morning.

Lundberg lives in Cattaraugus County, next to hundreds of acres of woods. That made the search difficult. ATVs and and trail cameras were used to look for Haso.

The Buffalo News wrote about Haso in January 2020, when the dog was among the K-9s retired when marijuana was legalized in New York State, compromising their illegal drug-detection training.

Both Lundberg and Haso left the K-9 unit at the same time.

Haso played a key role in the arrest of a city parking meter mechanic and a substitute teacher. After deputies stopped the city employee's vehicle on the Scajaquada Expressway, the K-9 discovered a bag of cocaine hidden in a side air vent on the dashboard. The Sheriff's Office seized a half kilo of cocaine, 15 grams of fentanyl and $7,500 in cash from the couple's car.

Lundberg also recounted Haso's gifts as a tracker. The K-9 sniffed the pajamas of an elderly Clarence man with dementia who had wandered away one night. Haso traced the scent into the woods and found him.

"There's a minimum of eight people who wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for him," Lundberg said Wednesday.

Lundberg said he let Haso out of his kennel around 7:45 p.m. Monday and went into his garage for four minutes. When the deputy returned, Haso was gone. The deputy used his security cameras and suspected something attracted the dog's attention, causing him to take off.

Lundberg and friends with ATVs roamed the woods, with Lundberg leaving pieces of clothes and bedding with his scent on it to give Haso a scent trail home.

The Erie County Sheriff's Office posted information about the missing K-9 on social media Wednesday.

A dog search group called "Sherlock Bones" assisted in the search effort. Lundberg said Thursday that they found what they believed to be Haso's tracks.

Lundberg hoped Haso, a professional tracker, had simply lost his way home, or was alive but injured or stuck somewhere. But he said Wednesday his greatest fear was that Haso, a dog in perfect health on Monday, was no longer living.

"That's the most difficult thing," he said.

(c)2022 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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