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Newport News police lay two K-9 officers to rest

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Dozens from the local law enforcement community came to First Baptist Church Newport News Monday night to honor two K-9 officers who passed away unexpectedly.

"With two happening so quickly we felt they deserved their own ceremony and memorial service," said Asst. Chief Stacy Kelly, who used to be a K-9 handler.

The service honored the work of Duke, a bloodhound, and Hammer, a German Shepherd.

Duke died January 25. Police believe he was eight or nine years old. He joined the Newport News Police Department in 2013 and spent his career tracking missing persons. He and his handler, MPO Nick Stewart, also visited schools.

Five-year-old Hammer died February 2 during a medical procedure. He joined NNPD in 2012. He and his handler MPO Jonathan Hatton worked on violent crime cases and won an award last year for the apprehension of a hit-and-run suspect.

"Your life is in their hands," said Asst. Chief Kelly. "You build such a relationship with them. It's so much more than a pet. You are partners."

The ceremony included the playing of "Taps" and a Rendering of Honors.

MPO Stewart was also surprised with a new partner; a 14-week-old bloodhound puppy named P.J. We're told MPO Hatton met his new partner, Halo, a couple weeks ago.