Virginia State Police remembers slain K-9

RICHMOND, Va. -- The handler of the beloved Virginia State Police K-9 officer killed in a shootout with a murder suspect in rural Sussex County earlier this week says his partner will never be forgotten, according to CBS 6. 

Photo provided by CBS 6.

"Vader, a K-9, a trooper, but also one of my best friends. Vader was not only my dog, he was my boy.I loved him and he loved me even more," Vader's handler wrote in a statement to WTVR CBS 6. "It breaks my heart to know that he is gone, but I know he was one of the good guys and he has made it to a better place. I always watched out for him and his safety; now, he is watching out for me. Vader will not be forgotten and he will always be loved."

Virginia State Police are planning a memorial service for the two-year-old Belgian Malinois as a growing collection of tributes decorates a blue-and-gray K-9 vehicle at the agency's administrative headquarters on Midlothian Turnpike.

Scores of balloons, flowers, dog treats and toys as well as an American flag sat atop the cruiser Saturday.

"Our canine program is essential in so much of what we do as a Department to achieve our public safety mission," Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Gary T. Settle said on Thursday. "We are all deeply saddened by the loss of Vader and are forever grateful for his sacrifice and selfless service to the state police and the Commonwealth."

A police processional followed for the two-year-old K-9 whose end of watch came just seven months after he graduated training.