Tacoma Police welcome K9 Axel after devastating loss of K9 Ronja in August

K9 Axel. Credit: Tacoma Police Department.

Tacoma Police welcome a new member to the force this week: K9 Axel.

Axel joins the Tacoma Police Department after the devastating loss of K9 Ronja in August, and following an outpour of support from community members and grant funds donated to the departments' K9 memorial fund.

K9 Axel. Credit: Tacoma Police Department.

Tacoma Police in a statement on Wednesday, when Ronja’s breeders heard about Ronja's bravery, the head trainer decided to send a dog already in the process of training for her own personal dog. Tacoma Police said this is the greatest honor a police K9 handler could receive from a colleague. Axel, a male German Shepard, comes from Slovakia and is already training with TPD Officer Jennifer Syler, who previously trained K9 Ronja.

“As we welcome K9 Axel to our law enforcement family, we thank the community for its great generosity.  Not only did donations and the grant cover the purchase of K9 Axel, but the funds will also continue to provide care for all of the K9s countywide,” TPD said in a statement on Wednesday.

The department said they will use the remaining funds to send every K9 and their handler to specialized training on K9 trauma and first aid. In addition, each handler will also receive a first aid kit and training specialized in treating injured K9s in the field, provided by a Special Forces veterinarian who has saved multiple military K9s during overseas combat operations, officials say.

“The Tacoma Police Department would like to thank the community for K9 Axel and also for protecting all police K9s in Pierce County; K9 Vortex, K9 Moni, K9 Ammo, K9 Brix, K9 Chato, K9 Eddie, K9 Ripp, K9 Roc, K9 Kona, K9 Maverick, K9 Marshall, and K9 Mia,” TPD said in a statement. “Above all, we would like to thank the community for remembering and honoring K9 Ronja.  We are truly humbled by the generosity this Thanksgiving.”

Axel will take the place of K9 officer Ronja, a 2-year-old German Shepard who was tragically killed in the line of duty during a pursuit and capture of an armed homicide suspect on August 13th. During the pursuit, the suspect ambushed officers, and without hesitation, K9 Ronja sacrificed herself to protect her fellow officers. She was shot several times and passed away shortly after due to the wounds. No officers were seriously injured, police say.

Ronja worked for the Tacoma Police Department for 8 months in training for patrol. She started her career as part of a generalist team on patrol in April 2020. Tacoma Police said she quickly established herself as an invaluable member of the police force and protecting the Pierce County communities.