ST. CLAIR SHORES, MI – The Assumption Greek Orthodox parish of St. Claire, MI held a Bereavement Service on November 14 for Axe, a K-9 police dog killed in the line of duty on November 4, in his attempt to take down 29-year-old Theoddeus Gray, who shot him. The killing took place outside of the Lakeland Manor Banquet Hall, where Gray’s family says he was armed because someone threatened to kill him while he was at the shower. The police killed gray at the scene.
The K-9 dog is considered an active police officer and it is identified as such. A small box with his dust along with his photograph and the American flag had been on a table on the solea of the church. More than 2000 police offices and 150 K-9 dog-officers were present at the memorial even from throughout the area, including police chiefs and sheriffs of various counties.
Protopresbyter Michael Varlamos told The National Herald that Axe was killed about three miles from the Church. “There is a banquet center and one of the people pulled out a gun and he was threatening people in the parking lot and the police were dispatched. When the person pulled the gun toward the police officer, the dog rushed toward the suspect and the suspect shot the dog dead. The dog literary took the bullet for the police officer.”
“The St. Claire Shores Police Department told us when a police dog dies they attribute the same honors to the police dog like a human police officer. They said the first community they thought of was the Assumption church. I said I needed more information and they told me ‘it is just an opportunity for us to assemble all the K-9 units and all the police officers from Southeast Michigan, a few from Ohio as well, so we can pay respects and bring the police community together.’ I was appreciative that they thought of our church and ours is the biggest facility that could accommodate them.
“The church was filled to capacity, the church seats 600 people, and there were people standing and in the Fellowship Hall we had about 450 and there were another 250 or more in the gymnasium and hundreds outside. We had closed-circuit TV for all to see.”
Fr. Varlamos clarified that “it wasn’t a Memorial Service; it was more of a Bereavement Service. I wasn’t wearing an epitrahilio, I didn’t say any Orthodox prayers. It was just an opportunity for the police officers. They called us and the first thing that came to my mind was when we call the police on time of need they come to us and now the police called us and they wished to grieve, the officer that was with the K-9 and all the police. I was amazed because I wasn’t expecting the turnout, police cars were from all over Metropolitan Detroit. They wanted to grieve and they know our community supported them and tried to provide an outlet for the grief to be expressed in a respectful way.”
In his comments at the Service, he said “Blessed are you, O Lord, Who has created all animals great and small to serve humankind. From the time when we all lived in the Garden of Eden side-by-side until this very day, You Who Are the Source and Creator of Life, charged humanity with naming all living things and have entrusted human beings to perpetually care for all animals in their service to us. On this day, we gather in one of your many houses of worship, to memorialize, pray for, and honor one of your creations, Canine Police Officer Axe of the St. Clair Shores Police Department, who died in protecting his partner and our community in the line of duty.
“O Lord, we pray for the animals that bear with us the burden and heat of day, the dangers of night, and offer their guileless lives for the wellbeing of humanity. You have made them loyal, strong, and beautiful, and we pray for them. According to Your great tenderness of heart, O God, protect all who work daily to secure our peace, and to those fallen in this endeavor, grant them a place in Your eternal kingdom. As we gather to memorialize Axe, let us pray for him, for his partner and family, for all our police officers, and for the community for whom Axe gave his life to protect.”