VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Law-enforcement personnel from across Central Florida and out of state gathered at the Volusia County Fairgrounds today to remember a fallen hero.
The processional for K-9 Forrest started at noon in Deltona for a 13.4-mile journey to Tommy Lawrence Arena at the Volusia County Fairgrounds on East New York Avenue.
Deputy Brandon Ellis, Forrest's handler, led processional units from the sheriff’s office and local police departments.
K-9 Forrest lost his life November 22 during a manhunt with an armed suspect in Deltona.
"At the end of a career, the last thing you want to do is to have one of your last official actions, to have to come together for a solemn occasion," said Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson.
Johnson spoke eloquently about K-9 Forrest, who started working in 2015 as one of the youngest members in the unit.
"Forest was out there to save Deputy Ellis's life," Johnson said.
And he did. Forest's K-9 handler, Deputy Brandon Ellis, thanked his best friend while holding back tears.
"You looked evil straight in the eyes and brought the fight to him. Your bravery and fearlessness allowed me and Sgt. Hughes to go home to our wives and kids. For that, we will be forever grateful," Ellis said.
A 21-gun salute and folding of the American flag followed, as Ellis carried out his partner's ashes. The memorial ended with helicopter flyovers and deputies with their K-9s forming a gauntlet, as K-9 Forrest passed through for the last time.
Johnson said K-9 Forrest is the 33rd dog in the United States to be killed in the line of duty this year.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation concluded that Forrest was shot by friendly fire as deputies pursued a man in a manhunt that lasted more than 19 hours.
Eddie Powell, 34, was initially accused in the killing of the K-9, but officials said there is no evidence indicating Powell fired his weapon.
Two deputies fired as Powell punched and fought Forrest while pointing a gun at deputies, authorities said.
Forrest suffered two gunshot wounds during the incident.
“Sadly, unintended consequences sometimes occur in shooting situations,” Johnson said. “This doesn’t change the fact that Forrest died a hero while trying to subdue a dangerous gunman.
"Our deputies were put into a deadly threat situation and were forced to defend themselves. As far as I’m concerned, Eddie Powell is responsible for the death of Forrest just as surely as if he had pulled the trigger.”
For more information on the K-9 Forrest memorial fund, click here.