DULUTH — The suspect in an armed standoff that lasted for nearly 24 hours in Duluth died at the scene Friday, Feb. 26, according to a tweet from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension at about 6 p.m. No officers were injured, by K-9 Luna was killed in the incident.
A Forum News Service reporter on the scene in West Duluth said that, shortly after 4 p.m. Friday, they heard shouting, followed by the apparent sound of gunshots. Shortly after the exchange, law officers began to move around the scene freely, entering and leaving a residence where the suspect had been holed up since Thursday evening, Feb. 25.
The Duluth Police Department responded to a domestic abuse call at about 8:30 p.m. Thursday on the 2300 block of West Fourth Street. Upon arrival, officers learned the male suspect had felony warrants and refused to surrender. K-9 Luna was sent in to apprehend the suspect, at which point he fired shots and hit the dog, according to a police news release.
K-9 Luna later died at the emergency veterinary clinic of her wounds, according to the release.
Officers returned fire, retreated from the residence and set up a perimeter to contain the scene. Police closed 24th Avenue West between Third and Fifth streets to traffic as the standoff continued.
Duluth Police Department spokesperson Ingrid Hornibrook said neighbors were asked Thursday night to either evacuate their homes or remain in their basements until the situation was resolved.
At around 9:30 a.m. Friday, a Forum News Service reporter said a voice over a speaker was heard saying, "David, it's time to come out and put the gun down. If you follow all instructions we can guarantee your safety."
The voice continued: "David, this is the sheriff's office. We are not leaving. You need to follow our instructions and put the gun down. Go to the door with your hands visible."
Hornibrook said the woman who was in the house at the time of the call escaped with the assistance of the police.
Soon after, a St. Louis County Sheriff's Office armed vehicle was seen launching smoke grenades into the house. Multiple armed vehicles from the Superior Police Department and the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office were also on scene Friday.
“It’s really difficult when things like this happen in our community," Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said at a Friday afternoon news conference. "We worry about our neighbors. We worry about the health and safety of our staff and our workers.
Larson extended thanks to Officer Aaron Haller, saying that she and Chief Administrative Officer Noah Schuchman had spoken with Haller earlier Friday to offer their condolences on the loss of his K-9 partner.
“While K-9 Luna and Haas are co-workers, It’s also really important to understand that with the K-9 they are family," Larson said. "So, this is a family member that the Haller family has lost. She did her job, which is to go into a dangerous situation and try to prevent human fatalities, and in that she lost her life. So, we just want to recognize that, because that’s really really hard.”
Officers, public mourn fallen K-9
On Friday afternoon, Rose St. John held a sign near the scene of the standoff that read “Forever in our hearts Luna” to show support for those affected by the loss of Luna.
“Whatever his warrants are, he now shot an officer,” St. John said, referring to Luna.
St. John said she felt compelled to make signs Friday because she had met Luna twice and recently experienced the absence of her own family’s dog after giving it up for adoption.
“My daughter is going through a really hard time giving our dog up for adoption. I can’t imagine what (the officer’s) kids are going through,” she said.
Luna's handler was Officer Aaron Haller. He acquired Luna after his first K-9 partner, Haas, was killed in a similar situation. Haller, a six-year veteran of the department, was injured in the January 2019 incident.
Luna, a Dutch shepherd, was 3 years old. She was the first female K-9 at the Duluth Police Department and was named after the Harry Potter character Luna Lovegood.
"'Luna' was actually kind of dead set in stone to be the name of our next kid if we had a daughter," Haller said in June 2019 after he was assigned the dog. "As the process was kind of rolling along and it was looking more and more like Luna would be the dog we were going to end up with, my wife just basically said, 'Well, maybe Luna is the girl we were supposed to have.'"
When asked how Haller was doing, Hornibrook said the officers were banding together to support him.
"As much as people want to say these dogs are tools to aid public safety, they become family," she said.
As the news of Luna's death spread Friday morning, law enforcement agencies from all over the state began offering condolences via social media to the Duluth Police Department and Haller for their loss.
"Our hearts hurt beyond words as we grapple with the horrible news of the shooting death overnight of Duluth police K-9 Luna. We, like so many of you, are awaiting further details but recognize the need for patience as the standoff situation that led to her death is still an active one," the Northland K9 Foundation said in a Facebook post Friday morning.