Duluth’s iconic Enger Tower will glow with blue light this week after a handler and his canine partner were identified on Monday as the officers involved in Sunday’s deadly shootout on West Skyline Parkway.
Officer Aaron Haller, a four-year veteran of the Duluth Police Department, was injured and his K-9 partner, Haas, was killed during the incident, said a Duluth police news release Monday.
The assailant in the shootout was found dead at the scene - a residence on West Skyline Parkway in the Observation Hill neighborhood. The female victim of what was a described by police as a “felony-level” domestic assault was unharmed.
One officer has been placed on administrative leave, Duluth police spokesperson Ingrid Hornibrook said. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the case due to police involvement in the shooting, but it is not yet known if the man was killed by police gunfire.
The identity of the dead man was being withheld pending autopsy and notification of family members, said BCA spokesperson Jill Oliveira. The man’s body was transported to the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Ramsey, Minn., where cause of death was being determined.
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson ordered the Enger Tower tribute on Monday, explaining on Facebook, “For the next few days we will be lighting Enger Tower blue to thank our officers who responded to a dangerous call (Sunday) night, to show our support for Officer Haller who is safe and home, to thank the DPD community for supporting one another, for this community who is doing the same,” Larson wrote. “K9 Partners work incredibly hard to protect and serve this community. Haas was a trusted companion to Officer Haller.
“Thank you to everyone who is reaching out. It has been a very difficult night and morning for people who work with and in our Police Department and their families.”
The News Tribune had previously identified Haas based on what has become an outpouring of support for the fallen police dog on social media.
Duluth police responded to a report of a domestic assault at a home on the 1000 block of West Skyline Parkway just before 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Officers negotiated with a man in the home for about an hour before he began firing at them, striking Haller and killing the police dog, according to a police department news release. Ultimately, police gained access to the room where the suspect was located and found dead.
The female victim was not injured in the assault, said Hornibrook, who described the woman as being in a relationship with the shooter. No further details about the woman were being made available, she said.
Haller was treated and released from a Duluth hospital following the shooting.
“As a community, let’s put our arms around and show our support for Officer Aaron Haller, his dedicated K9 partner Haas, and our DPD family to find peace in the days ahead,” Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken wrote on his official Facebook page. “Officer Haller is home resting with family and Haas will forever Rest In Peace as a hero who gave the ultimate sacrifice keeping his police officer partners safe.”
Haller had been partnered with Haas for the past two years. Haas was 3 years old and a decorated performer in a national police dog competition last summer.
An outpouring of support for Haas began to appear on social media as the news spread.
Said the Northland Law Enforcement K-9 Association, made up of multiple Northland departments which use dogs: “Last night came the horrible reminder of the ever present dangers faced by our law enforcement officers, including K-9s. Duluth Police K-9 Haas was shot and killed by a suspect wanted in a felony domestic assault case. … With broken hearts, we extend our sympathy and best wishes to Officer Haller and his family, to the Duluth Police Department and to all who knew and loved this very good boy.”
Haas had taken first place last summer in the criminal apprehension competition at the United States Police Canine Association regional trials.
A bio of Haas appears on the Northland Law Enforcement K-9 Association website: “(The) talented Belgian Malinois was born in the Netherlands in January 2016, and has been working with the Duluth Police Department - and Officer Aaron Haller - (since) the spring of 2017. K-9 Haas is a dual purpose K-9 trained to detect drugs and evidence, and to track and find people.
“K-9 Haas has twice proven he’s top dog in training. During one of his initial certification classes on narcotics detection, he finished with the top score in the class: 199.67 out of 200. He followed that up at the (United States Police Canine Association) regional trials placing first in criminal apprehension out of more than 100 teams.”
U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, a retired Duluth police officer, posted on Twitter: “Heartbroken to hear of the loss of Officer K9 Haas & the injuries sustained by his handler, Officer Aaron Haller. My prayers are w/ Officer Haller as he recovers from his injuries and the entire Duluth Police Department as they mourn the loss of K-9 Haas.”
Said the Cloquet Police Department on its Twitter account: “No words can describe our emotions of this event. May you guys find peace and comfort. We are with you.”
A fellow Duluth police K-9 handler, Rob Hurst and his K-9 Hondo, also weighed in on Twitter with a verse explaining the relationship between a handler and his police dog:
“My eyes are your eyes, to watch and protect you and yours.
My ears are your ears, to hear and detect evil minds in the dark.
My nose is your nose, to scent the invader of your domain.
And so you may live, my life is also yours.”