Law Enforcement Community Honors Fallen Sutter County K-9

YUBA CITY -- It was May of 2017 when K-9 Bandit became part of handler Sgt. John Lopez's family.

On Thursday, that family and his extended family showed up to pay their respects.

Moments before Sutter County Sheriff's K-9 Officer Bandit took his final ride with his law enforcement family something special happened. The rain that pounded Yuba City for the previous hour stopped.

Bandit and his fellow K-9 officers were granted safe passage to his memorial service.

It was two weeks ago when Bandit lost his life. The Belgian malinois was helping to take down a homicide suspect in Butte County when he was hit by police gunfire.

The Butte County District Attorney would later say the suspect, who presented a pipe as a possible gun, was attempting "suicide by cop."

Lopez's son, Chris, fought back tears, remembering seeing his lifeless four-legged brother.

"I was the first followed by my three younger brothers to walk into a tiny room where my father stood crying over our Bandit," Chris Lopez said.

Along with law enforcement, Thursday’s service was attended by the East Nicholas varsity football team. Chris Lopez and his younger brother played on the team.

"Just because we support all of our fellow teammates and we treat each other like family, like brothers. So we felt like we belonged here," said Tyler Jensen.

"I started to train you to become a police dog and from the beginning I always felt deep inside I had a dog with a lot of quality in my hands," said Sonja Vanaerle.

Vanaerle trained Bandit as a puppy in the Netherlands.

She says she just happened to be in the United States for Thanksgiving. So she stayed a little bit longer to say goodbye to the puppy she always knew was destined for law enforcement.

"I cried immediately," she said. "My heart was broken."