Police dog shot dead saving handler

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The Independent Online
A police dog-handler and a woman were wounded, and the officer's dog shot dead, during a domestic incident early yesterday.

A man was arrested shortly after the shootings at Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire, and is being interviewed by police.

PC Ian Churms and his German Shepherd dog Bryn were called to an address in the town at about 11.30pm on Thursday night following an emergency call to police. Shortly after their arrival with a second uniformed officer, a man appeared with a firearm, which he used to threaten them. PC Churms, 33, and the 42-year-old woman, who has not been identified, were shot and the dog was killed.

A man was later arrested in a nearby house, said a spokeswoman for Northamptonshire Police.

The police constable was hit in the right thigh, and was in a "stable" condition in Kettering General Hospital today. The woman was in the same hospital, being treated for a wound to the upper body. Another police officer suffered a hand injury, but this was not a gun wound. A .22 rifle and a quantity of ammunition were recovered from the scene.

The spokeswoman said a man arrested in connection with the incident was to be interviewed yesterday.

PC Churms has been a police officer for almost 13 years and a dog handler since 1993.

He holds several police commendations and recently returned to active service after a lengthy period of sick leave as he recovered from an injury sustained in a serious incident in nearby Wellingborough, said the police spokeswoman.

Chris Fox, Chief Constable of the Northamptonshire force, said that the incident highlighted the dangers faced by officers on a daily basis. He added: "This started off as the sort of incident which officers go to every day of their service but one which became extraordinary ... We have to be thankful that nobody was killed.

"These incidents are thankfully rare, but when they do happen they remind every officer that when they go to work this might happen. It goes to show how any incident can turn to be dangerous and unpredictable.

"The police dog was shot doing his job, trying to protect the public and his handler from being hurt.

"In regards to the safety of officers on duty, we train our officers well and I do not believe officers could have prevented this incident."

The Chief Constable added that the officers were called to a domestic incident where there was no mention of a firearm. But had the officers been armed, he said, he did not believe the outcome would have been any different.